Full text of "Argus"
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Northwestern State University's
Annual Literary and Art Publication
Editorial Board and Contest Coordinator
KATIE MAG AN A
MARY BETH WIDHALM
We want to begin by thanking everyone who submitted this
year. Whether or not your names appear in this book, you are
the lifeblood of the Argus and without your contributions, we
could not continue to provide Northwestern with a literary
magazine. We are privileged to showcase your lives, your writ-
ing, and your art.
We owe a huge depth of gratitude to Dr. Julie Kane who has
supported the Argus for many years and has provided her tal-
ent, enthusiasm, and her guidance to this staff and each staff
We would also like to thank Dr. Abney and the Department
of Language and Communication and Dr. Chandler and the
Department of Fine and Graphic Arts. We appreciate their
consistent support and encouragement.
To our judges for offering their time and their perspectives;
Gary Hardamon for lending his talent and time every year;
Bobbie Jackson, Peggy Cedars, and Ada Hippler for helping
us get through the sticky stuff and handing out the office key
ten thousand times.
To those professors, Dr. Colavito and Dr. Pritts, who have kept
close ties to the Argus each year and have aided in any way
necessary to keep the magazine afloat.
And to everyone who reads this, thank you for picking up the
Argus and taking an interest in the hard work and creative tal-
ent of your fellow students at Northwestern State University.
When Larrie presented his theme Ideas to the staff, there was
unanimous excitement over this, our nameless Argus. The
design was unique and, I admit, I thought: the untitled thing
worked for Led Zeppelin, why not us?
The book has a mystery to it, being untitled. In many cultures
a person does not receive their true name until they have
come into some sort of being. This book is a reflection of the
time just before that name is given (a little cheesy, I know).
This year's Argus is not about being, it is about becoming.
The works in this year's Argus reflect that sense of moving
toward something, or moving away from something else.
Movement, that is what best describes it. Each piece is
moving and growing into some direction, and becoming a
renewed idea of self, life, and the world around.
I could not have grown as an editor without the help of many
people: Larrie, for his brilliant insight and dedication to the
Argus; Chandler, for tirelessly staying beside me to finish the
Argus and caring so much about releasing a well-done maga-
zine; Savanna, for taking on the extra work and helping with
the contest coordination; Corey, Teranda, Katie, Blade, Marli,
and Mary Beth for all of their time and effort spent to make
I'd also like to thank the past editors who gave me advice and
support. Angelin Borsics, whom I had the pleasure of meet-
ing in New York City, and who graciously took time from her
busy schedule to help us out; Monica Gremillion, who offered
her telephone number and advice when I got stuck; April
Dickson-Braun, who sat around endless hours discussing the
Argus, offering help, and who gave me the extra push I need-
ed to apply for this position.
O. CHANDLER CROOK
I fell in love with Argus years ago when Angelin Adams was
the editor. She told me to submit some of my work, but I was
nervous and unsure. A few years later, Monica Gremillion, a
close friend of mine, became the editor and I abandoned all
nervousness. I was given the opportunity to be the illustra-
tor of that edition, and have submitted much of my work to
Argus since. Argus has given me the opportunity to showcase
my work, and I am glad that as assistant editor, I am now
given the opportunity to showcase works of students gifted
in poetry, art, photography, fiction, and nonfiction. Andi, the
staff, and I have tirelessly read hundreds of submissions, and I
believe the work published in this edition displays the talent of
I take great pride in this year's edition. I not only take pride
in the content, but also the design and theme. No matter who
might be flipping through this year's edition, they will be able
to connect with this year's theme, growth. The tree obviously
symbolizes growth, but Andi and I also wanted to arrange
the poetry to fit the theme as well. We believe that the ar-
rangement of the pieces is cohesive, and works well with the
I hate that this is my last year working with Argus, but
as most great things in life, it has to end at some point. I am
grateful to Angelin for introducing me to the Argus, and Moni-
ca for pushing me to submit. Also, a big thank you goes out to
Andi. Thanks for choosing me to be your assistant editor and
putting up with my craziness. I know all of your blood, sweat,
and tin (as Sharon Olds might say) will pay off. Finally, I'd like
to say thank you to Dr. Kane. You have been my mentor, and
your zeal for the arts has driven me to pursue the passion I
have for writing.
Growth is a process of moving from one state to another.
Without growth, we fail to realize our ultimate human poten-
tial. When I approached the design of this Argus, I kept that in
mind. Last year, we concentrated on the brokenness we often
experience. That sense of damage was reflected throughout
the artwork and design aspects of the book. This year we ac-
knowledge the growth that can occur once you break the soil.
I used plants, and more specifically trees, as a metaphor for
humanity. We start small, we grow, and though branches
may fall throughout our lives, we end up changing a lot more
around us than we could ever know. I wanted this book to be
open, fresh, and inviting. The lack of a title, aside from "Ar-
gus" allows the viewer to interpret the mood of this book in
the manner that best relates to him or her.
I am hopeful that I have helped create two books that truly
reflect a campus populated with people who have real lives,
hardships, dreams, and people that embrace growth.
I would like to thank Andi and the entire Argus staff, who mo-
tivated me to no end when I presented to them (a bit less than
eloquently) my ideas. I would like to thank those designers for
the Argus before me, who made me challenge myself. Lastly,
I would like to acknowledge Northwestern State University of
Natchitoches. This publication has been created for decades
now, and I am proud to be a part of a university that gives us
Michael Yankowski has been a professor of art at
Northwestern State University for twenty-one years. He
teaches Photography, Graphic Communication, and
Design. He was a professional photographer, graphic
designer, and high school art teacher before he decided
to join the staff at NSU. He exhibits nationally and is rep-
resented in a gallery in New Orleans.
Valerie Powell is an assistant professor in the Depart-
ment of Fine and Graphic Arts at Northwestern State
Sonny Carter has been a photographer for news media,
editorial, and commercial photography since 1960. He
is currently published in Louisiana Life Magazine and on
the website www.sonc.com.
Our second photography judge wishes to remain
Argus 2008 judges (cont.)
Amanda Cagle, a native of Louisiana, received her Ph.D.
in English from the University of Connecticut. Her fiction
and poetry have appeared in journals such as The Ontar-
io Review, The Connecticut Review, Revista Atenea, The
Essay Connection, and The Louisiana Review. She has
been the recipient of both the Wallace Stevens Poetry
Prize and the Edwin Way Teale Nature Writing Award.
Currently, she is at work on a novel.
Dr. J. Rocky Colavito is a professor of English in the
Department of Language and Communication at North-
western State University, LA.
Krista Jenkins received a B.A. in English Literature as
well as an M.A. in Writing and Linguistics from North-
western State University. An avid creative writer and
poet, she eagerly shares her passion for writing with her
students while teaching composition courses in North-
western's Department of Language and Communication.
Dr. James (Andy) Crank attended Washington Univer-
sity in St. Louis before receiving his M.A. and Ph.D. at
the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, where he
specialized in American, Southern, and African American
literature. Much of his publications center on Tennessee
poet/novelist James Agee — including an edited edition
of the author's short fiction, which is due to be published
by the University of Tennessee Press in 2010.
Angelin Adams Borsics is an NSU alumna, served as
Editor-in-Chief of the Argus for the 2004 and 2005 is-
sues, and graduated in 2006 with a graduate degree in
English Writing and Linguistics. She currently works at
The Wylie Agency, a literary agency in Manhattan, nego-
tiating contracts and rights for writers.
Nahla Beier was born in Jerusalem, and has lived in
Beirut, Lebanon, and various American cities. She has a
Ph.D. in English Renaissance Literature from the Univer-
sity of Virginia and teaches English at a residential school
for gifted students. Her publications include: "One More
River to Cross," in Children of Israel, Children of Pal-
estine: Our Own True Stories, and "Veronica's Veil," in
Angelin Adams Borsics
Pantoum To The Goddess
1 Wrote A Good Breakfast
Pajama Clad Bandits
Of The Deam Never Lucid
0. Chandler Crook
Not Strictly Made Of Stone
Neo Slave Owner
Mary Beth Widham
Prozac Isn't The Answer,
But Have You Tried Vivactil?
Incident On The Campti Cutoff
12 O'Clock In Texas
My Name Part II
Mystic Sharecroppers III
Stetson B. Marcantel
Introduction 2 Art Class
Noble And Ancient
Stetson B. Marcantel
The Light Of A New Day
Empire Of Dreams
A Song For Your Mama
Tuesday With Daisy
Mary Beth Widham
Home Of A Hero
Stroll Down The Hall
Abstract Sunset 60
Discarded Thoughts 62
Girl With Mask 63
More Waiting 67
Shades Of Blue 71
Adlay's Glasses 72
Holy Sonnet One: 76
The Body Check
Among Strange Brethren 77
Getting Dirty 85
One Black Tablet 87
The Whole Entire Story 89
Thoughts Of Paris 97
To An Earthen Masterwork 101
Shall We Dance? 103
On Coffee And Dragons 104
Another Addiction 105
Lazarus Day 107
To The Honorable 114
To Die For An Idea: 115
A&SKyser (Building 81) 116
Bearing Their Burdens 117
With Gratitude For Zafon 118
O. Chandler Crook
Anna Raye Jennings
Jessica F Harvey
Anna Raye Jennings
Amanda Roe, "Girl With Mask"
Amanda Roe, "The City"
Rebecca Edwards, "Harvest"
Sarah Hunt, "My Flori"
Mary Manno, "Stroll Down The Hall"
Danielle Kenny, "Sifnplacid"
Michael Wendel, "Geography"
Keisha Johnson, "Neo Slave Owner"
Randall Frederick, "Shall We Dance?"
Dane Clayton, "The Whole Entire Story"
Matt Guido, "Lazarus Day"
Kera Simon, "More Waiting"
Robert Lane, "Among Strange Brethren"
Robert Lane, "Incident On The Campti Cutoff"
THIRD PLACE: *'
Rebecca Edwards, "Not Strictly Made Of Stone"
Maidens, Mothers, Crones.
Sitting patiently in disguise,
Cast your knuckle bones!
Waiting for a new season to rise.
Sitting patiently in disguise,
Watching the world of straw men turn round,
Waiting for a new season to rise,
Watching the men of clay return to the
Watching the world of straw men turn round,
Seeking only the greater good,
Watching the men of clay return to the
Cloistered away in a green wood.
Seeking only the greater good,
Alone in Sacred Solitude she toils,
Cloistered away in a green wood,
Watching the men fight over the war's spoils.
Alone in Sacred Solitude she toils,
Cast your knuckle bones!
Watching the men fight over war's spoils,
Maidens, Mothers, Crones.
I wrote a good breakfast... and ate a hot essay
after loving you
I wrote in my fingernails... and polished my diary
after loving you
I combed my car. . .and drove my hair to class. . .
on a Saturday
after loving you
dialed my radio... and listened to your phone number...
after loving you
I drank my email. ..and checked my wine...
still tipsy with lust in mind
after making love to you.
z n i
The early morning haze hangs heavy
Above row upon row of tall, green plants
With tomatoes hanging, waiting and ready
To be plucked by the small, eager hands.
Above row upon row of tall, green plants,
The sun is just rising, its light subdued.
Thick humidity tickles the skin like ants,
Expanse of lawn covered by a film of dew.
The sun is just rising, its light subdued.
A trio of children with their mother in tow,
Clutching red and green baskets to store their loot
They race to the garden and disappear amidst rows.
Scampering about the garden in the growing heat,
Three young bandits pluck the ripe red fruits.
Laughing, they stop and eat one as a treat
Faces and plump fingers become sticky with juice.
Three young bandits pluck the ripe red fruits
Then run to Dad for a hug before he leaves for the day
And to add to his lunchbox what their forage
Tomorrow they will repeat their enchanting foray.
With tomatoes hanging, waiting, and ready
jh To be gathered and collected like treasure.
2ri The early morning haze hangs heavy
^ And envelops the figures in the languorous weather.
PAJAMA CLAD BANDITS
I'd stay asleep longer
but I know my sheets won't embrace you forever
The frost has fallen
and the wind whistles for you to return
I slide you closer
to where your lips will graze mine
I want so much for this to be the moment
when everything is okay
I want to give you that moment
Outside I hear the wind again
She hums her lullaby
Close your eyes
Go to sleep
No one knows
The secret you keep
Live your dream
Unaware it's a lie
Try to let all time pass by
In a flash, she returns me to the fields
I walk around the bales of hay
and over the cow pies
and under the dogwood trees >*
I walk until I can't see home anymore Z.
Then finally veiled beneath the shade of my favorite O
I tell the cows my secrets TO
on pieces of stationery s-\
that I leave balled up in the grass -g
I tell them about you p\
I'd stay asleep longer ^
but I feel your curves sliding away from my fingers
Soon you will be leaving me
but I manage to catch the scent
of tiger lilies lingering in a wisp of your hair
I covet more than a moment
but I realize that you belong to the wind
and I must return to the fields ^ m
N©T STRICTLY MADE ©F ST©NE
Q The most self-destructive thing that we do as
people is to allow ourselves to love someone who
does not deserve it. However, we are usually blinded
by that love and by our own stupidity— when you
Q know this person does not deserve your emotional
LLJ discharge, I assure you, it feels much worse. Yet
<£ every time that person sucks you into their life, like
(J some aching vortex. My aching vortex happens to
(^) be my mother, and I the future victim of many years
If pawn shops gave money for children, my
mother would have put me in hock a long time ago.
When she's straight and clean, oh how she loves
me! Oh how sorry she was for whatever she did the
last time she was high! But when she needs a hit
and when she's loaded... she'd sell her own soul, or
those of her children, to the devil for just one more
Neil Young's lyrics that say "Every junkie is
like the setting sun," and that old joke about "How
do you know a junkie is lying? Her lips are moving,"
ring true to me. Approaching her fiftieth birthday, my
mother's ideal gift would be a goody bag of pills and
a couple of rocks to smoke at her leisure.
With that necessary forward stated, I would
also like to add that this story is merely me sharing
an experience with you, in hopes of someone relat-
ing to it in some way. I am not a whiner. I also love
my mother very much. "I'm going to call Gene, and
tell him to send me some more money," my mother
"Mama," I answer, "if you call him for more
money, then he'll know you're buying drugs and he'll
ARGUS third place nonfiction
beat the shit out of you when you go back to him."
Given the gifted liar she has ultimately become, I see
the plan forming in her head. "I'll just tell Gene that you have
to go to the gynecologist, and that I need money to pay for it!"
I see her sitting on the bed, and can't help but feel
sorry for her. She's coming down from her last high and I can
see how hard she is crashing. She needs a hit really badly.
Her dirty blonde hair is lank and smells like smoke. The bag-
gy T-shirt she's wearing is starting to show the evidence of her
profuse sweating. "Goddamn" is used every other word and
she's so nervous that I'm surprised that there aren't sparks
forming. It's a tragedy to feel pity for your parent.
Between her fast and shallow breaths she begins to
beg. "Becky, please give me a ride to score, please, for your
mother?" Before I even begin to rebuke her, or dispute the
posed favor, she knows that she owns me. She knows what
I'll do even before I do.
"Are you crazy? It's like 12 a.m. in the morning. I'm
not going to drive in the quarters so you can buy drugs...," I
begin. "Everyone knows my car in town and Dad would kill
me!" I see the urgency in her beautiful yet lined face. I see
the physical pain that the comedown is causing her. I am
As I pull up to the rundown shack where her drug
dealer resides, I am filled with anxiety about being seen by
someone I go to high school with, or being pulled over by the
cops. Then, as I'm about to kill the engine, a man appears
beside my mother's passenger window. She rolls it down.
"Hey, Dicey baby, I ain't seen you in a long got-damn
time!" the man exclaims. He then sticks his head through the
car door and kisses my mother. She lets him in the car and I
am instructed to drive. While they are catching up I glance at
him in the rearview mirror. He's got maybe 3 or 4 good teeth
and is around my mother's age or older. His skin is so black
that the whites of his eyes are vivid and his skin looks like it's
carved from wood. Sweat is glistening on his skinny face.
His Hanes T-shirt is light purple with a pocket on the breast.
It's got multiple holes, and grease and sweat stains. His blue
jeans match his overall appearance and he smells strongly of
baby powder (and not in a clean way). I'm given directions
by Mr. Dealer and am instructed to drive on to another house,
being as his own stock is dry.
What in reality is 15 minutes feels like a year. After my
mother purchases about 50 bucks worth of crack, I am finally
allowed to head toward taking her home.
She can't wait for me to drop her off before she gets
high, so she starts to load up her pipe in my car. She takes
the glass tube out of her purse and puts fresh wire in the end.
She breaks a rock in half and sticks it in the end with the wire.
She tucks away the remaining half in her little plastic baggie.
(Instead of teaching me moral life lessons, my mother taught
me to always put my drugs in plastic, not paper, bags. Paper
erodes your drugs.)
She scrunches down low in the seat and puts the pipe
to her lips. The pipe is tilted slightly upward, so that she can
get the rock melted. Her lips do an automatic sucking/huffing
thing and her eyes go slightly crossed as she holds the lighter
up to the opposite end of the pipe.
After the preliminaries, she then takes an enormous
hit. I feel myself breathing the smoke in deeply. My skin
begins to crawl and my throat tingles~l want a hit. Mom
introduced me to crack when I was about 15 or 16, so I actu-
ally did know what I was missing. She taught me to hold the
smoke in for as long as I could, and then to let it out. As a
matter of fact, she taught me everything. I swore the last time
we got high together that it would be the last time for me, and
I meant it. I would not be her in 30 years, teaching my hypo-
thetical daughter to smoke or inject drugs.
All the same, seeing her get the rock ready and tasting
her smoke in my mouth made my brain fuzzy. While holding
in her smoke, she says in a strained voice, "You wanna hit
this, baby?" I lit my cigarette in response—as badly as I want-
ed to take her up on her offer, disappointing myself would be
She inhales so much smoke it is like she's been hold-
ing her breath all this time, and only now can she breathe in
this holy breath of life. She holds it in for as long as possible,
then exhales a massive plume out her window. I can sense
her body starting to relax, but it doesn't last long. After a cou-
ple more hard hits and that half almost gone, she becomes
extremely paranoid, and begins looking for cops hiding on
the side of the road. "Mama, stop being so fucking paranoid,
you're freaking me out. We're almost home, so just relax."
"Becky, you've never been to jail, and I ain't ready to
go back, so shut the hell up and just drive the speed limit."
Determined as she is that we will be pulled over, she
puts the plastic baggie of drugs down her panties and hands
me the pipe. In a forceful and hurried gesture she shoves it in
my hand. "Put this in your bra," she says.
I can still feel the glass is scorching hot from her light-
er. "There is nobody around, and I'm not hiding that on me," I
yell, my patience wearing thin. I can tell that she is starting to
"If I were wearing a bra I would put it in mine, but I'm
not!" She attempts to hide the pipe down her panties along
with the drugs.
I know, pulling away from the place that she is staying,
that she would be up all night hiding and re-hiding her drugs
compulsively between hits. Tomorrow, when all the rocks
have been smoked, she will go to the pawn shop, where they
know her by her first name. She'll get money (from her dead
mother's jewelry), persuade someone to take her to score,
and the cycle repeats itself.
At least my mother isn't boring, and I am grateful for
all the bad in my life so that I will cherish the good. After 21
years of my mother being clean, going back to drugs, and
clean, and drugs, like everything else you are faced with....
you learn to adapt and to deal. I believe God knew to make
me a strong person so that I would be able to handle the life
that He would give me, because He doesn't give us more
than we can bear. Instead of spending a lifetime resenting
my mother, I became an artist (and occasional writer) instead.
Through her neglect and selfishness, she unknowingly gave
me the gift of creativity.
Nl© SLAVE ©WNIR KEISHA JOHNSON
Am I nothing
but the fiction
of other people?
What they make out
to be real
is what I make myself
out to be. I am lost
in a vacuum
of words and phrases
I am totally not.
I am a jigsaw puzzle
Glued, framed, and hung
up in the back hall.
Hidden for my insincerity
that I truly believed in;
I am not an original.
But a fake
by deceiving hands
to model something greater.
I am built
of industrial dreams.
And I hoped for higher things.
But I am too easily broken
to be real.
Too heavily fallen
like a boulder.
Shattered on the floor
like a looking glass
instead of a diamond.
Trying to mirror
the better actions;
taken with better faith
with better ideas.
But I am only
a carnival distortion.
I'm no better
than what I was created from.
No better than the phony words
and false faces
and empty hugs
and destitute kisses.
I am a creature of society.
SECOND PLACE POETRY
The car door crashed closed,
suede seat sagging,
and she clicked the key clockwise
but the damned start was dragging.
She began to shake the shifter
to restart a well-rehearsed routine-
tap gas tap gas tap break and turn—
the erratic engine emits a scream.
She thrashes through thick streets,
her grill grinding gravel,
she mauls ambivalent mailboxes
(she's terrified to travel).
White knuckles whirl the wheel and,
with logic lost along the way,
the car careens, complete threesixties
like a beautiful baroque ballet.
I drew a map of Hawaii on her stomach,
rolling into a Jim Beam Dream.
The first blizzard in state history.
Deep colorful sleep,
cut short by an everlasting snore.
So I slinked into my clothes trying not to wake the whore,
who by some intoxicating mishap
I asked to dance because she looked like that chick
from that TV show I can't remember.
And she ended up with my geography lesson
strewn upon her belly.
Tasting the remnants of the mixture of
stale bud light, bacardi, menthols
and wintergreen skoal from only hours ago.
Throwing on my boots donning my coat,
running my hands through the coarse hair
covering my face and head.
Slinking out the door pulling on my stocking cap.
Looking at my watch, the sun yet to rise.
The way home looking strangely eerie,
like that strange boat ride those kids took
with Willy Wonka down that chocolate moat.
The street lights glowing like the aurora borealis,
dome like over the icy, snow-covered streets.
Walking in a straight line not an option, as gravity suddenly
my body crashing into the brick paved streets.
ArgUS first place poetry
Blacking out for only an eternity, suddenly jerking awake
a cold wet tongue across my face.
Panting breath smelling like my aunt Helen's,
(who looked like the vulture guys in the dark crystal)
lapping the multicolored snow off of my frozen, blue face,
a piss-colored mix bitch looking at me with the same
needy look that ol' whats'er name had to her.
I wonder if she would be my best friend?
Scraping myself off of the cold hard bricks,
bending my glasses into a wearable shape,
dragging myself down the lonely street
an homage to Romero.
the last night that we should have said goodbye,
in the car windows sliding idly, mildly, down; outside
a funeral procession lay its mark and lay its dead
as a marker of this night: the dead who whisper in your radio,
the universe spiraling between your car seat and mine,
your hands like skeletons, your breath like juniper, mint
mind, my mind like a coaster
i remind you of a poem that you once read,
but you've slipped away again;
you could be on the other side of the world,
you could be one hundred years dead by now,
you could have slept on bed sheets like mine,
like i did, that summer, so afraid to go under,
seeking out hindu elephants on west Virginia hills
seeking out anything the opposite of.
the dim lights of the grieving pass by, it's
no irony i accidentally ended up in the procession,
no irony we ended up like this, staring out car windows,
like the dead watching each other from the mausoleum,
the funeral is for you. the funeral is
for the trees tonight, the wind whipping
rhythms against both of our car seats
down, one, down, one, down, one
breathes the whimpering singer in
your stereo, tearing down universes;
now, your hands are bones, now,
the ride is through, I
wait dizzy, without you.
CHASTER ANDI MCKAY
PR®ZAC !SN T THE ANSwEi
N|AVE Y©U TRIED VlvACTIL?
Sometimes I would kill
to walk around like a zombie.
To live like a phantom
inside my body.
r\ Glide through quiet
— > streets. No one can touch me,
^ nothing can hurt me.
I want to be a million miles away
oo when you look into my eyes.
jjj What would I give to smoke
V! my soul up to fair-weathered skies.
And how I would give anything to forget
who I was supposed to be.
Lose my mind to something
no one else can find.
Already I feel
my body relax,
my breathing cut to half,
ny lids becoming lazy.
CUPPERS RANDALL FREDERICK
fragile follicles whippoorwilling in the wind
as I shake out the towel
and we begin again
it's not how I see it, that's what I tell myself
shake out the towel
clean up the sink
it's not how I see it, that's what I tell myself
as I avoid every mirror
put away the clippers, clean up the sink
say goodbye to that time of discontent
avoid the mirror, avoid that mirror, whatever you
avoid that damned mirror
for that costumed clown is out of season
say goodbye to the time of discontent
though it lives on in pictures and letters
and that costumed clown was so out of season
so I put on a new mask and entertain you
I live on in pictures and letters
and regret the present more than what came be-
standing here, reading my lines verbatim
wearing a mask to entertain you
regretting the present before
so I make a cut or two, and it's too late to turn
I can't be what I am
it's too late, and it happens
avoiding mirrors and that face that stares back
missing what came before
having to shake out the towel
reincarnated with the same face that stares back
it's not how I see it, I tell myself as I begin again
missing what came before
fragile follicles whippoorwilling in the wind
There are times in your life when, in a sudden rush of
randomness, the ordinary departs and the dangerous, the
challenging, or even the totally absurd will momentarily rear-
range your carefully planned life just to show you that you are
not really in charge after all. Such an event occurred in the
year 2000 on the pulpwood highway between Campti and the
Red River Bridge, at the Millers Farm Road Crossing. With
distance and time, I smile about it now, realizing that had the
event actually killed me, I would not only be famous but pro-
verbial because of the comic way I met my fate. The kids from
Lakeview would have erected one of those highway crosses
painted dark Lakeview green and they would snicker each
time they drove by at how I had taken one for the school.
Fridays in the fall last all day and late into the night. There
is nothing quite like a high school district football game in
your home stadium on a crisp November night, when the
lights come on early, and the faithful show up in their warm
SECOND PLACE NONFICTION
hunting clothes to ring cowbells when the boys run out. I'm
there, you see. I'm the voice that echoes off the trees. I am
only the second public address announcer in school his-
tory, and the first guy only did it for a year. Lakeview was
so new to football that the sweet little stadium did not even
have a name. From me calling it Gator Land, the stadium was
named. No one but me remembers silly details like this, but I
can smile about the unusual impact that I have had there. In
2000, I had been there for seven seasons. That year, we had a
good campaign and the very last game would determine if we
made it to the playoffs for only the second time in the history
of the school. To make the scene even better, we had to beat
our archrival the Red River Bulldogs, our across the parish
line cousins, to qualify to go to the playoffs as a wild card.
The Bulldogs were undefeated and untied and we would host
them for our Senior Night.
To say the kids were up for the game is to use rather
severe understatement. Spontaneous cheers began in class-
rooms even before lunch. The lunch room was a riot of noise,
without fighting; all hearts and all voices were on the very
same idea-beat the bulldogs. Afternoon classes were a
waste of time and, by pep rally time, the din of cheers from
the stands made the cheerleaders sound like so many mimes.
It was like one giant heart beating inside as the building strug-
gled to contain it. It was going to be a day to remember, at
least until the next time we played our cross the line cousins.
Senior Night, I have always maintained, is really for the
parents. They get introduced with their seniors and get to
relish in their child's accomplishments as the student athlete
takes the applause from the crowd for the last time at home.
Though I did not invent Senior Night at Lakeview, I have been
in charge of it since the first year we had it. Since I am also
the English III teacher when I am not announcing ball games,
I write my own scripts for Senior Night and Homecoming
and also announce half time shows. Don't the band kids and
dance line deserve the zippy hyperbole of a real introduction?
Senior Night 2000 was as cold as a well digger's butt. We
were ready to beat the bulldogs.
Now I need to tell you a secret. I hate pep rallies. An-
nouncing at a pep rally is exhausting, hot, and fruitless. After
trying to maintain some semblance of order for six periods,
then to have to run that on its head and help whip everyone
up strikes me as just silly. On games like Senior Night there is
no use to announce— it's too loud even for the microphone.
They give me a monster headache and I have to pretend I'm
really enjoying myself. Announcing the seniors at the pep rally
that fateful year was like watching crusaders looting Jeru-
salem. My head was as big as a pumpkin afterwards. It had
been a three Aleve kind of day. I wanted to feel much better
for the presentation at the game.
As much as I hate pep rallies, I love working in the press
box. Press box work takes advantage of one of my few real
talents, being able to talk and listen at the same time. In the
tiny press box in Gator Land, we sit as tightly as one might in
a World War I vintage submarine. I have the middle seat. To
my right is the spotter who helps me quickly call who made
the play. This person is more valuable than gold. On my left
are two statisticians, one for our offense and the other for our
defense. On either side of this line of people sits a coach, one
of ours and one of theirs on headsets talking to the side-
lines. Over my right shoulder is the guy from the paper. On
the far left end is whatever radio station shows up. As soon
as pre-game is over and the teams line up to kick, everyone
goes to work in the press box talking as loud and fast as they
can. Cords and cables run everywhere on the floor. The place
sounds like we are trading orange juice futures. It is the most
fun I have had on a Friday night since I was a player. From out
of the din of voices and the crackle of electrical equipment,
we help Lakeview football put on one hell of a show. I do it
from the best seat in the house. This was the type of night
that I anticipated that year, in 2000, but the random chaos
vortex had slightly different plans.
I was a headache walking on two long legs as I left the
back door of Lakeview High School after the pep rally had
been turned out on the bus ramp. I had last minute check-off
drill to finish making sure everything for Senior Night introduc-
tions was ready before I left for the afternoon, hopefully to sit
somewhere in a quiet room. The field painters were still hard
"Coach Lane, would you mind going to get the programs to-
day?" whined the new cheerleader sponsor, looking up from a
large can of green paint. She had her hair in pigtails and paint
all over her overalls. She looked about 16. Jeans day will do
that for a young teacher. "I look a mess." I just kind of looked
at my feet. "OK, but remember you said you looked a mess,
not me." Damn, I had to drive clear to Impressions by Duni-
gan to pick up the program that had the Senior Night insert
that we had designed during publications two weeks before.
If I was going to be a full service kind of guy, I guessed then
I'd even go pick up the programs. Stepping out of my usual
routine may have been what disturbed the universe that day. If
it did, I hold no ill will against the cheerleader sponsor who the
very next year married some bigwig in the CP-Tel family and
retired from teaching at age 26.
The Campti Cutoff, or state highway 486, runs from its
junction with Highway 71 in hypotenuse fashion through the
countryside to Campti, cutting the corner so one does not
have to take 71 all the way into Clarence before turning left to
arrive in Campti on the other side of town. It is driven primarily
by log trucks, 18 wheelers, the occasional hay bailer, and any
local resident with a sturdy enough vehicle and constitution
to risk his life doing so. Though the posted limit is 45, the real
speed limit is more like 60. Even though it is stated nowhere
in the vehicle code, log trucks absolutely have the right of
way. There are 13 crosses where someone has lost their life in
a vehicle accident that dot the Cutoff from where I turn onto
it from Highway 71 , to where I fork right onto Highway 9 just
below Lakeview. The Cutoff on a bad day resembles a Mad
Max film. You just have to hope for the best.
I left the school at about 3:20 PM, needing to make it to
Impressions before it closed. The Cutoff was crowded with
traffic, all of it moving too fast and too close together. I was
driving, rather proudly, the new-to-us Windstar that we had
bought about two months before as a program vehicle. It
still had the new car smell. I had the oldies channel on the
radio and "Working on the chain gang" was blaring out of my
new speakers when I noticed something really odd coming
in the opposite direction. There was a short bed pickup, red
and bondo colored, laboring under the load of several major
appliances. It appeared that the driver had stacked them up
very high on top of each other. It was at that moment that the
magic happened. As we came close enough to each other for
me to notice that he had indeed stacked a stove on top of a
deep freeze, I said aloud, "There's no rope around that stove."
Even now, I am not sure that me saying that did not
cause the stove to fall. Just as I finished that statement, the
truck lurched as if it had braked suddenly or shifted gears,
then spun its tires and sped up. This motion caused the stove
to drop off to the right. It fell in my lane, just missing the truck
in front of me, and began rolling toward me. I was going about
62 miles per hour when the stove fell off the truck. As odd as
this sounds, things seemed to go very slowly from that point
until the impact. I glanced at the left lane. A log truck was
coming on at speed. That would have meant death. I looked
to the right, but the shoulder had dropped away about eight
or ten feet in a gentle hill that ended in Papa Miller's farm. I
did not want to roll the van. I literally stood on the brake.
For the first time in my life, I shouted at God, "Jesus, stop
my van!" I was still sort of standing up when I struck the roll-
ing stove. The sound was like hearing a tin roof being ripped
off a house by a hurricane. The impact slammed my head and
neck against the roof and the air bag hit me in the stomach
and abdomen. I noted that it smelled like gunpowder and
thought grimly that it would have killed my young son. The
van had begun to spin and I prayed quickly that I would not
hit an oncoming log truck or roll upside down. I had the odd
thought that this was like playing Mario Cart for real. I actually
hollered "Gators Forever" in case that was the last time I'd get
to say that.
Moments later, the van stopped moving. I realized I had
closed my eyes. When I opened them and looked around, I
was off the road on the right side, pointing the wrong direc-
tion about five feet from the point where it dropped off down
the hill to Miller's farm. I was all in one piece. I got out. Then I
was frightened. My new van looked like it had been beaten to
death by a giant monster or had lost a transformer war. I be-
gan to shake. Large pieces of what was the stove were strewn
all over the road. My first thoughts were about the programs.
Then more lucidly, I wondered what insurance company would
believe my story. "Oh, yeah hit by a stove, go sleep it off."
Worse than that, the truck that had dropped its stove cargo in
front of my van was nowhere to be seen. As I wondered what
to do next, Mr. Miller arrived. "My God. Coach Lane, what
did you hit? "It was a... stove." "Are you OK?" "I guess." "I
thought you might have hit somebody." "Yeah, somebody 1 1
feet tall and made of cast iron." He began to laugh. Then he
apologized and whipped out his cell phone to call 91 1 .
About five minutes later, the stove-dropping truck crept
back into view, pulled off the road just behind me, but no one
got out. I walked up to the truck. The old man that was driving
actually ducked down in the seat. Ah, shit, I've scared paw-
paw. The passenger, who looked about 20, began to reach
under the seat. I had a flash that he might be going for his
gun, so I stood back from the truck and held my hands out to
indicate that they were empty and that I was not armed. They
both sat up but did not make a move to get out.
I approached the truck slowly and tapped on the window.
The driver rolled his window down about two inches, "What
do you want?" I decided I had to be funny. I bowed just a bit
and said in my most courtly voice, "Excuse me, good sirs, you
seemed to have dropped your stove." The passenger began
to laugh. The driver was still wary. "You're not going to beat
anybody up?" "No, of course not." Then he noticed my hat.
He asked me if I was from the school. I said I was. He smiled.
He begin to name his grandkids. I told him I had taught them
all and was going to introduce his cheerleader granddaughter
if I ever managed to get back to the school. He was all smiles
after that. The passenger, however, became somewhat mo-
rose wanting to know if I was going to pay for the stove I had
ruined. I decided to ignore that. The police arrived.
Though the local constabulary knew who I was, and the
truck driver confirmed my story, they all laughed at me while
we filled out the paperwork. The policeman told me that the
older driver, 87, had seen a program the night before where
one person involved in a two-car pile up had beaten the other
driver with a tire iron, and he somehow imagined that I might
do the same to him. I just looked at my shoes. I got them to
call Lakeview and have the coaches dispatch someone else
to get the programs. The tow truck arrived. The driver whis-
tled at the wreck and laughed at the story as the policeman
practiced telling it. "Somebody's going to send my kid to col-
lege paying for this one," said the wrecker as he cinched up
what was left of my van. I had told the police that I could not
bend over, which was the gospel truth, but I refused medical
treatment. I did accept a ride back to school.
I felt like a standup comic telling my story in the field
house. Once everyone saw that I was not seriously hurt, we
had a jolly time. Even my sweet wife of so many years, once
she got over the shock that I had destroyed the van but was
not hurt, laughed uproariously at the story. I felt like Bozo the
clown— with a major headache. I took about five Excedrin.
When the programs arrived, I was feeling no pain and decided
I could announce the game.
Evidently, after the wreck and the yucks everyone got
from it, the stars over Campti returned to their rightful place
or perhaps their better than rightful places. Senior Night went
off perfectly. We beat the Bull Dogs 14-7 on a wild punt return
by a freshman safety who went the wrong way, away from
the forming wall of linemen, and managed to outrun the only
defender who saw him bail out for a 52 yard score.
One call from Edwin Dunahoe convinced the Saferight
insurance company that their driver, who got five citations,
was in enough of the wrong that they should repair my van,
provide me with a rental car, and pay for me to go to the chi-
ropractor. The only available rental car in Natchitoches turned
out to be a brand new Cutlass Supreme that I got to drive for
six weeks while my car was fixed. I went several times a week
to the chiropractor until I could touch my toes again. I was
proud of the fact that I missed no school.
The funniest incident in the stove vs. van story occurred
first hour on the Monday after Senior Night. I was determined
not to just tell the story all day. Everyone knew the details
anyway. Lakeview is a small place. I was determined to press
on with school. When I went to write some stellar informa-
tion on the board, I could not reach high enough to begin at
the top. Suddenly, one of my clowns in the back achieved a
career funny moment. "Hey, Coach Lane is all stoved up!" The
place collapsed in laughter. I had survived and had become
proverbial in the bargain.
I still get my car inspected at the body shop where I got
the van repaired. Every time I pull in there, someone will hol-
ler, "Hey it's the stove guy!" It is certain that if I am buried
in Campti when my time comes they will inscribe the words
"stove guy" on my headstone. I am just very glad that they did
not do it the day the stove and I met close up.
Yes, there are times in your life when the ordinary is shak-
en by something dangerous, challenging, or absurd. For me,
it turned out to be all three. I have resolved myself somewhat
to the idea that my fifteen minutes of fame turned out to be
a violent encounter with a rolling stove, but everyone laughs,
and as they do, I am glad not to be commemorated by the
14th wooden cross, the one that people would snicker at as
they drove by it.
The only lasting effect of this event was the premature
death of the van. Though resurrected afterwards, it never
worked quite right again. I also am very careful around people
hauling loads in pickup trucks, but that is a good idea anyway.
THE CONQUEST ROXIE JAMES
A long time ago there lived a great king
Who lived in a land well known
But then that king died with no children beared
And no one to carry the throne
Three men from afar all vied for the land
But none the title deserved
Prior agreements, blood, and politics
Were all the reasons served
Battles were fought and blood was shed
All for one sacred crown
It became more apparent to all those coherent
The great Kingdom was being worn down
Then one of the men he gained an advantage
Let's just call him Will
With 600 ships and 2000 horses
He came to this country to kill
News of the arrival spread wild like a fire
In the hearts of all it brought fear
Some natives rebelled, and brought William hell
But most simply shed a tear
The date in their mind they will always
The date in their mind is fixed
For it's simple to reason, it's simple to know
It's the conquest of 1066
It's 12 o'clock in Texas,
And the rain's a pourin' down.
Yes it's 12 o'clock in Texas,
And my tears are runnin' down.
My man left me today,
I put him in the ground.
My man left me today,
I caught him foolin' around.
And my tears were pourin' down,
I laid that two-timin' ass in the ground,
I caught him with my best friend,
My heart it did pound.
He was messin' with my best friend,
When I shot them both down.
Well at 12 o'clock in Texas,
I was puttin' up a fight,
But at 12:01 in Texas,
The cops read me my rights.
And my tears, oh they fell,
When I was thrown in the prison cell.
On death row in Texas,
In this prison cell.
But not afraid of dyin',
For I'm already in hell.
Well it's 12 o'clock in Texas,
And they're ringin' my death bell.
Who in the world, what in the world, how could this be?
What were they thinking when they named me?!
Young and dumb
They didn't know
Everybody just decided to let their creativity flow.
The starting letter is a T, why oh why do they think it's a
^ It's Twonzetta, not Poinsettia
~Z And No I was not born in December
C\ The month is September,
^ If you must know
p Yes my first and middle name rhyme,
Leave me alone, don't ask me
I'm still trying to create this name,
Only I can give it an identity.
No my family is NOT African-American, just simply black,
And could you please cut me some slack!
Yes, the last name is Nesbitt and yes my uncle is Tim.
Should I even bother to tell you that:
I'M NOT HIM!
My cousins are Jabar, Eric, and Derrick,
This is no new find
Yes I am aware that they fight all the time.
But if you please,
I have decided not to intertwine our destinies.
Give me that chance, let my destiny be
And I'm sure you will quickly see that,
I DEFINE ME!
Beautiful, articulate, and determined
To walk outside the mold
For my destiny
j^ A splash
■y Falling water
<< Crashing down
r \ Blue
rv Blue becomes the sky
<< Wind racing, howling
^ Wind screeching
Blue as far as the eye can see
Thousands of seeds
— 7 Green becoming the grass
^ The solid ground, enduring
^ The ground bearing all
I — Green under the blue
j- 1 - 1 A swoosh
CO A bright glow
Yellow becomes the sun
The star of the morning, burning
The sun illuminating all we see
Yellow in between the blue and green
Wood and Steel
Dull and old
Gray and black
Here and there
The tracks are made
Across the ground they glide
Under the morning sky
Blue and red
To create the centerpiece
The heavy locomotive
Tears down the endless track
In an endless run
Never reaching home
All the colors
The bright yellow
The windy blue
The dull gray and black
Blue and red
And all the vague colors hid in between
Building a prison of joy
A happy painting
A joyful day
Of never-ending pain
Ever riding the endless rails
In the smokeless locomotive
As the conductor yells
To destination unknown
TNI TEST CHRIS CALLAHAN
1 square, 2 square, four. Pi r square, cornbread r round.
"Fill fully, Number 2 only," she said. Scribble. Scrabble. Blank
filling in darkly. A full mind emptying out. Pretty patterns,
plotting points. Scribble. Scrabble. Tick. Tock. Hot lead and
burning rubber. Eggs are to birds as b is to c. It's getting
shorter, all getting duller. Faster! Hurry! Faster! Turn The Page!
Filling and blanking. Scribbling, scrabbling. The Ticking!
The Tocking! Poor numb hand, poor numb mind. "Time," she
Pretty patterns, nothing less and nothing more. Breakneck pace,
just another failed test.
1 am not a painter sjjg
a masterpiece 2 me is most beautiful when u lay
ur body atop mine moving effortlessly with ease ^j
with ur paint brush im ur easel (g\
u trace ur moans in2 my skin ri
i paint my songs on2 ur heart so that it lasts. C
Swimming terrifies me yet I appreciate the movement ^
of ur body _"H
i enjoy the story it tells (g
the drip drip drip dripping of ur river faucets flowing
fluently in2 the december of my springs .. ^
rising up like waterfalls
the small waves enlarged J>
crashing down gently in2 the likes of me. ^0
Dancing across the bed comes familiar 2 me
strong legs, strong hands C
u raise me 2 the sky L^
(the soil feels good between my toes) JjT
i lift my legs up so high they go beyond the galaxy £2
u join me in heaven. .
Et i write u across the walls m
Pencil u on2 the floor Z
My intent means so much more than c75
2 be the best X
Art student there is 2 be ^>
2 write the next big poem oo
2 inspire or incite ^
I just want 2 stencil stanzas on2 ur soul, zzj
Let me teach u a lesson...
GABRtBLLE CHRIS PRUDEN
The seats at gate B24 smell funny, but for no apparent
reason. They aren't stained or particularly dirty. The plane
is delayed and the passengers sit restlessly in their smelly
seats. Each focuses on his final destination and the tedious
ride about to depart. The call comes and the plane slowly
fills. The gate agent finishes her last check, but stops when
she catches sight of Gabrielle. Gabrielle is a regular and uses
the flight for work. She walks to the counter late, not rush-
ing, heels in hand - stiletto with that wide strap that fits snug
around her slender ankle. The gate agent lets her on the
flight, but not without a wink and a sigh. The wind shakes the
jetway to the rhythm of her hips in a determined walk, making
her skirt flail in cooperation with her curves. She greets the
flight attendant and, as she makes her way to a seat near the
back of the plane, smiles. The other passengers notice her
arrival and collectively hold their breath with a mix of excite-
ment and dread. A young child, confused by this reaction,
innocently asks his mother, "Who is that pretty lady?" Quickly
shushing her son, the mother replies in quiet terse language,
"She is the in-flight prostitute." Gabrielle takes her seat next
to one excited male, and after adjusting her shoes, brings
a brush from her purse. Brushing her long brown hair with
rhythmical strokes, she soon loses herself in the activity and
the boundaries of personal space drop from her. She be-
gins rubbing her thigh against her neighbor's leg, while her
hair blows into the aisle. He is obviously interested but has
not the value Gabrielle needs to fulfill her requirements. She
decides to visit the bathroom to help her search. Traveling the
length of the plane, she smiles at every potential customer,
discreetly holding three fingers pointed toward the floor. She
enters the lavatory and the occupied sign blinks once, quickly,
like she accidentally fumbled with the lock, and turns off
(Gabrielle has worked on this technique for quite some time).
She waits as one by one the businessmen, young and old,
in their suits and ties, walk casually down the aisle following
Gabrielle's scent like bloodhounds.
Gabrielle is a hard worker, and after the flight lands she
takes only thirty minutes for a quick lunch before the return.
When she finally arrives home, she is tired, but satisfied with
a job well done. She is always the first to exit the plane to sit
by her usual gate B24 and watch the contented faces of her
clients, as they hurry home for dinner with their wives and
A hundred miles to
nowhere. A spider sits on
an overgrown sign.
Empty city streets
plastered with yellowed paper
From a time long past.
Ancient metal frames
sit as relics of the past.
Cracked and broken stone
tower over empty streets.
Sound echoes on walls,
ghosts crying across ages.
Footprints in the stone.
The steps taken by those old,
Weapons of power
lie rusting in their glory.
A raven perches
on a bleached skull eyeing all,
Oh, tragic landmark
what noble and ancient race
once lived on this land?
N©BLE AND ANCIENT
THE LIGHT ©F A NEw DAY
Ire ©f dreams
civilizations exist by mutual consent
and are subject to change without notice
for no household can stand
'cept they be united,
divided empires, dreams, and kingdoms
fail and fall like rain
— | but kings and knights do reign
<^ (with their ladies' consent)
Q in empires and kingdoms
~y where little notes are carried without notice
<£ between a queen and he who she has knighted
rv rising to full authority over her disrobed glory, he stands
riding across her outstretched lands
conquering her like so many kingdoms before, he reigns
for those unnoticed notes turn to whispers turn to touches
turn to bodies united
with full royal, queenly, sighing, liquid consent
all behind chamberdoors and hallways without notice
these secrets of the kingdom
for there is no kingdom
he desires more than her body, kneeling at the touch of her
shivering, quivering, whimpering, mewling, as he strokes
and caresses her lotus
elements of her burning body, his kisses like rain
all with amorous, adoring, delightfully liquid consent
his sword in her full-bodied sheath, united
intertwined, he floods her inflamed inner gates,
their bodies united
and caresses her back kingdom
willingly, she bows and consents
to take off her royal golden band
crowned in her divinity, she falls apart,
with pleasure and pain
collected each time, as he waters her pink, dewy
others, these two notice
friendships and loyalties divided
for the heart is an organ of fire
unquenched by the elements of time and rain
divided empires and kingdoms
and a knight exiled to the ends of the land
by mutual consent
but this memento she gives, that royal band
and the tears between them like rain
what passes between them going without notice
~Z_ Sometime before the end of us
Q I was down to half-pack days
and completely out
when we met at your house
over TV trays and the evening news.
QJ She was touching tips against the advice
, , , of the Healthcast
-y in Guns 'N Roses.
^ I offered a shaky hand
q and she handed me the one with lipstick.
^ Remember, I used to pay for us both
and throw the pennies in the trash can
so the little kids would never find them?
You loved the excess
and I could cover the difference
plus the cost of a DVD.
She knew what the deal was with movie
why you always wore a skirt;
probably knew that I was doomed
when she saw all my T-shirts had some year
printed on them for some brief event
W or reunion tour
12! and that I couldn't quit:
© not the way I stared,
*** not anything.
I wanted to write a song for your mother,
but I can't
because I'm fucked
and this is it: it doesn't rhyme
and I sure as hell won't sing.
So deliver this anyway you know how
to those who love what they ought not to,
standing in the gas station parking lot,
a fresh pack of smokes in-pocket
and a small coin
without another to jingle against.
so I'm wading in the unforgiving piss-yellow pool of the
street lamp/drowning gargling, sputtering, spitting/some
nursery rhyme wackbards & waiting for some green, the
fact is that my man came in from Memphis, the smell of
blue bacon trailing him to statelines,/& this shit is sup-
posed to be killer. & I'm winking at this curly blonde
the street./ her name's
>- Daisy, dancing in the window in some electric pink paja-
mas that fall apart when you pull on/one lacy ribbon. I
want that ribbon
tied around my finger. I want to drum a rhythm on the
sidewalk to strip her/and wrap myself around her hips
or/wrist or neck or heart and squeeze until my sweaty
palms can prove my lustful dazed devotion.
& here he comes (always late, it's hard to say)/ here
comes my man, stomping up second/shoes whiter than
god's teeth/formless/ black hurricane hoodie half swal-
lowed him whole./l smell him
before he turns the corner and I break Daisy's gaze
with/eyes I know she's seen before, /my sweaty hand
meets his sweaty hand/ but my eyes pull back to her like
clockwork cat & my man/ thin that bitch'd suck my dick
with that 20 bucks you got for me?/ and if I didn't need
this guy, my man, to like me I would have wailed on him
she's an angel a fucking angel she's desperate
she's alone she's scared she's fucking scared
and you you don 't deserve to look at her you
wad of shit/ she may be a great lay but her
heart is dead
but anyway I laugh and cough I guess/she's got nice tits but if
they ever let her out of that cage, I wouldn't fuck that shit with
a 10 foot pole,
eyes dart marking seconds & I see/ she's staring at me with
hollow eyes she knows I've seen before./(hips and tits still roll-
ing like waves like the moon is pulling her pussy with fishing
when he stops laughing, let's take a walk, her stare still digs
knives in my turned back/ & over my shoulder I flip her off.
I said it cause it's probably true
I only obsess over what I can't have
I said it cause her dignity is an insignificant price to
pay for a good deal on a half.
H®ME ©F A HER©
FIRST PU\CE PHOTOGRAPHY
;■; ? e
SECOND PLACE ART
SECOND PLACE PHOTOGRAPHY
THIRD PLACE ART
GtRL WITH MASK
FIRST PLACE ART
THIRD PLACE PHOTOGRAPHY
the stench of day gathers in time,
the wetness of my shirt clings to my spine.
i came to find something for my own good,
i came to find out if you would
let me move and swing with limbs like jellyfish
who are born of lightning and the sea's kiss.
and if i had been born of someone's kiss
i'd hope to revel somewhere in time
and live under the waves like the jellyfish
feel the change to liquid from bone in my spine
and you laugh and say i never would
you ask: "how would that do you any good?"
i've become so bored with bad and good
and so intolerant of any one else's kiss
because you smell of heat and hickory wood
and you taste like the sea everytime;
of the sea, of sweat, of the back of my spine
and i melt down just like a jellyfish
but the crowd is weaving like a jellyfish
we're all here for our own good
twisting and bending from our spines
where palms high and night sky kiss
our little moment of the only time
we stretch ourselves as we said we would
oh, god, if only i could i would
spend my life like a jellyfish
(only) if you were the sea, and i in time
will find you are nothing or all that's good
like the sea or crowd or when we kiss,
i stand down, it's the evolution of my spine
oh, I know how the seas pine
and just how well we all would
be the victim's of no one's kiss
or lose our spines like jellyfish
but i do this for my own good,
i just do this every time.
[you check the time, your spine like a tree
it's good that you would be so free as
to kiss me when i'm limp as a beached jellyfish]
"Is he breathing?" I ask, walking to the
side of the bed. I feel his chest; the old man
is so weak.
Grandma washes dishes, finding what-
ever she can to take her mind off of her
emotional turmoil. She doesn't cry. I've
never seen her cry. Her voice breaks when
she refers to footprints in the sand, but I don't
look. I can't.
We've been waiting, just waiting for the
past two days. The nurse said he would die
yesterday. We don't know what keeps him
I walk to the window and watch my little
cousins play. They make too much noise
and don't understand the significance of the
silence. We try to keep them outside.
"I barely know these people," I tell myself.
"It's a shame how only weddings and funerals
bring families together... Well, my family."
Grampa takes a long breath followed by
a small moan. It's the only way we know he's
in pain. He can't tell us when he hurts. He
hasn't been able to speak for 30 years, ever
since "the accident...."
"I wonder what he was like," I continue to
think as I stare out of the window.
THIRD PLACE FICTION
Dad would tell us stories about how Grampa
raised him and his older brothers. He seemed
"I've always wondered what his voice sounded
Seek-a-word, muted TV, empty beer bottles...
Cigarette smoke rises into the dim-lit sky.
I listen to the bullshit behind me. After just two
days with these "relatives," my inner-temper is get-
"God, these people are aggravating... I don't
know how Grandma stands it," I gripe to myself.
Grandma has been very tolerant. She's taken
care of her ailing husband for almost 30 years
since "the accident," and she watched her family
run around with about as much sense as a retard-
Grandma sits in her rocker with her new-
est grand-baby. She waits for everyone to settle
down. She's just waiting.
The voices get louder as more beer is con-
sumed. People are laughing as the old man strug-
gles to breathe.
"Who the fuck ever heard of drinking beer
during a death-watch?" I bitch silently to myself.
"These people are so self-oriented. This is not
Dad's oldest brother starts preaching again,
with a slight glaze over his eyes....
"Oh, Uncle Johnny, quit crying."
Water bottles, blankets, goosebumps. The
sound of dark silence and shallow breathing fill the
I sit with my book by a lamp at 3:30 a.m. My
sister and I take shifts to watch over Grampa.
He coughs— I go to the bed. He moans— I go
to the bed. He's quiet— I go to the bed.
"The old man has me up every fifteen minutes,"
I whisper softly to myself as I make my way to his
I fight my tired eyes and listen to the IV push
fluid into his old veins. Grampa looks pale and his
hands are cold. His eyes are rolled back and
his mouth is open.
"Is he breathing?" I say a little bit louder,
only to fall on sleeping ears.
I check his chest. It still moves—barely...
Tear-streaked cheeks, rosary beads,
strained breathing. Early morning light
streams into a crowded living room.
Grandma leads the rosary prayers.
"Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with
thee," is said in somber unison.
I stand behind my Dad and hold the hand
of a once-foreign cousin.
"I got nervous so quick when he stopped
breathing and now I feel nauseous," I tell the
friend of familiar blood. "He gave us quite a
scare. We still don't know what he's waiting
I hold my head down so the tears will
slide off more easily. I can't say the prayers
out loud; my throat hurts too much.
The nurse says that Grampa is falling, but
it could still be a while; which to everyone
means— more waiting.
A flash of white light is surprising in the
orange-lit room. Uncle Johnny is taking pic-
"You gotta be kidding me. And I thought I
was camera-crazy... Only my family...."
Cold biscuits, pajamas, soft chuckles.
The family sits together to share old memo-
ries while warm smiles spread throughout the
"We're all so tired," I say to myself, but
the laughter in the background stifles my
I stare out of the same window as yes-
terday. No kids to pretend to watch-just the
"We may not know each other very well,
but I guess we have to love each other," I
think with a smirk.
My cousin takes me by the hand and
shows me a picture of Grampa when he was
a soldier in WWII. Her son asks her who that
picture is of, and she proudly says, "That's
I look over my shoulder where the old
man is quiet. His lips are blue.
"Is he breathing?" I ask out loud.
The nurse shuffles to the bed, feeling his
wrist, and looks at her watch.
These shades of blue they always treat me wrong
These shades of blue they always treat me wrong
And so I'm left just writin' this here song.
Steel blue, I'm through with you
Royal, you were disloyal
Midnight, you bared no light
Azure, made me demure
These shades of blue they always do me wrong
These shades of blue they always do me wrong
And tears - down my face - roll along.
And there you laid
And here I prayed
For each damn shade
A pain is laid
You treat me wrong you diff' rent shades of blue
You treat me wrong you diff' rent shades of blue
So I guess I'll just be through with you
Glasses always lopsided, slipping _£
down his nose, give him a Faustian y>
intellectual look, as if he is about ~Z_
to be consumed by his own mind.
And me wishing I wore glasses
and wore them like that. He pushes
them up. Why? He doesn't need to.
I put them on once and, figuring
out that he was nearsighted— or
was it farsighted, I can never tell.
It's the one where he can't see far
away. Let them fall haphazardly
down, letting my intellect consume
and digest me and spit me out
sticky and covered in yellow fluid,
like a newborn baby. I am a baby
at least with these glasses on.
My vision is blurred, lights
are distorted, and suddenly
Everything seems too perfect and
innocent, the oval lenses fit my eyes too
well and, with everything distorted, my
mind recedes, the blurriness and light
offending it, as if it's an evil entity
and my brain cuddles up in its
little niche in the wall and quivers,
letting survival instincts kick in,
taking away the awkward and time-
consuming analytical nature usually
presented. I hate new things.
r\ uncle died - stared in
ry the casket too long, dad said,
f) child, it's rude to stare.
qj i stared anyway
— i wondered why clothes were ironed
Q - knew he hated ties
<C grandma grabbed my arm
31 you'll forget him, it's the smell
O that you'll remember
O grandma died - death's smell
Q£ lingered long after handshakes
with people i hate
dad made me accept
broccoli casseroles that said,
U^ i don't care she's dead.
looked at her just once -
thought it was dreadful to be
frozen to one space
you died -didn't go
to your wake - watched the sun set
frozen to one space
relatives they called
each got the same reaction
i don't care she's dead
you died - didn't care
i don't go to funerals
of people i hate
dad came by today
said - why is it just the bad
that you remember
found the worst of you
lives on in me - i must say
i hate our blood ties
i want to stare at
your corpse that infected me
- but it's rude to stare
DEM©L|T|©N KEISHA JOHNSON
I can't decide on how to handle you there in front of me.
You're analyzing my every word and my every movement.
Dissecting, almost obsessing.
I can see the data processing in your grin.
Abusing my tired drunkenness for everything that it's worth.
I'm aware that this isn't the motivated rambling of an intellectual.
I am aware that these are the vapid words
Fumbling from lips that only know feelings, not facts.
And I just know that I can only watch
Through the spaces between the fingers
Of my hands in front of my face.
I hear all of my words crashing
Because of my mouth's faulty brakes.
I can see you sitting there
Reveling in my state of semi-consciousness,
Wondering if I'll get any worse.
Wondering if you get to witness it.
You and I both know my words are only going to get me in trouble.
You and I both know I'm handing you the keys to the demolition ball.
Mark the red X on my pride.
Its days are numbered, starting now.
Starting at the point where my lips met yours.
I moan, you laugh.
Deep down, I know you care more about your cigarettes and your girl
Then/than you do me.
I'm sprawled across the carpet, uninspired, but on fire.
My words still falling, but far less clearly now.
I'm stumbling incoherence.
My body shakes and it's good, but only till I come
To my senses.
When it's over you get your things to leave
As you say goodbye you lean against the door-jamb.
Six feet of unapologetic smugness; fiddling with your fingernails.
Telling me not to be so hard on myself,
I've been one of the most interesting wrecks you've created.
HQLY 5®NNE7 ®NE:
THE B©DY CHECK
How can you holy God love sinful me
When my heart is wrecked with indecision,
And my life anything but your vision?
Your people dis' me for my heresy
And yet you always call me family.
Still, my wicked heart remains full of division
Like a late night show on cable television
And hardly like your son from Galilee.
For I can hardly be called a deaconess,
'cause I act more like a Texas redneck
Who feels less at home in a church than a Chevrolet.
But you love me through all my dirty grittiness
And sometimes give me a needed body check
So I'm back again on heaven's highway.
AMeNG STRANGE BRET
"Dad, how big is God?"
"You mean how big is he physically? That's difficult to
say; I am not sure you could measure him like that." My son
brushed his heroic surfer-length hair out of his eyes and pre-
pared to reload another question. It was Sunday and we had
just walked to the car. I could tell he had been paying atten-
tion in Sunday School. His warm brown eyes lit up with the
"Well, how about Jesus then, how tall was he?"
"There are no photographs of him-big enough to be a
carpenter. Scripture doesn't seem to say. They do hint that
he was not remarkable in appearance. I'm not sure what that
"Dad, Mom says you don't enjoy church any more, is that
true?" So that was it. The general negative mood I was in had
been connected to the source of the irritation by my clever
FIRST PLACE NONFICTION
"Well, the church part is OK. I enjoy worship. It's that so
many of these folks think they have God all figured out. I'm
not sure I do. We tend to be so quick to condemn people to
hell when they are not just like we are. I have genuine trouble
with that. I'm not sure you can put God in a box."
"So, God is bigger than a bread box?"
"Yeah, and that's my final answer." He seemed pleased;
he smiled at his own joke. I remembered the verse about how
you had to enter the kingdom as a child. My son was kingdom
bound. I, on the other hand, was facing troubles related to
how big God was.
In Moby Dick, Ishmael tells us that whenever he feels
"mean and spleenful" and "like knocking off people's hats"
that he goes to sea. I have identified with feeling mean and
spleenful for several years now. Though I have never been to
sea, I know well how Ishmael felt. For several years a root of
unhappiness has twisted itself around my soul until it begin to
resemble the trunk of a cypress tree. One by one, the things
that gave me joy ceased to be the sources of comfort that
they once were.
Work became a laundry list of thankless unpaid extra du-
ties. The school board offered to pay us to tutor for the LEAP/
EXIT test after school, then reneged on the money and made
us do it anyway. I was once again selected to be in charge
of the prom and no one wanted to help. The new, young
teachers refused to sponsor any clubs or student afterschool
activities, so the old dependable teachers were called on to
double up. Already overloaded, I tried once again to prove I
was indispensable. In doing so, I ran out of gas at the junction
of what-else-are-you-going-to do-for-us-street and lone-rang-
er-avenue. Church became an ongoing squabble over what
color carpet should be purchased, and people whining about
their right to heard in the meeting. Committees fought over
the pastor's job description. A genuine coup was pulled off
in the youth department, and the more I went to church, the
more my heart turned to stone. I could not believe that God,
whatever his size, was pleased with us as a group. Everyone's
favorite sport seemed to be sending others to hell.
I found it difficult to unwind at home and even my sweet
wife began to withdraw from the brooding Heathcliff I had be-
come. I snapped at my family for no reason. I was often jumpy
and on edge, which scared my son.
"Do you remember what you did the last time you fell into
one of these dark moods?"
"Yeah, that was the year I went to California to school
to learn to do stress management." I almost didn't finish the
thought. I'd spent the summer in hypnotherapy school. Ironi-
cally enough, that seemed to be the only activity I had been
enjoying since I could focus totally on someone else. Only
when I got to do hypnotherapy for someone did I feel like my
old happy self. Some people have thought me odd for my
pursuit of the unseen. My dad insists I'm hardwired that way.
I once paid several thousand dollars to learn how to fire walk.
I also took the additional class to be able to teach others. It's
really not as hard as it looks. Remote viewing, which involves
projecting an image with your mind to someone at a distance
and having them draw what you are looking at, turns out to be
totally bogus. So is Cave Breathing, at least for me This cave
in Texas was reputed to have air that would cause religious
visions if you stayed down in the heart of the cave at night. I
did not have a vision. I got a sinus infection. My hypnotherapy
studies, however, I had a real passion for.
"You should work some of that hypnotic magic on your-
self." My wife's comment sealed the proposition. I had to do
I decided that what was needed was a hypnotherapy con-
ference, where I could get some CEUs, upgrade my certificate
and have some fun While surfing the net, I happened upon
an advertisement of just such a training, to be held in upstate
New York over the MLK holiday weekend. After an exchange
of emails to other hypnotist friends, I found that about a
half dozen of these were planning to attend. In addition, the
conference was not just about hypnotherapy, but healing in
general. It was to be an interfaith healing conference. That
sounded like just what I needed. I was soon to learn how
broadly the word interfaith* can be defined.
The plane ride into the frozen beauty of upstate New York
was uneventful. It proved once again that the coach section
of an airplane is no place for a tall guy. The convention center
was large and well appointed. When I arrived, the opening
reception was in full swing. As I milled around and spoke to
people, I realized how very eclectic this event was. Ethera
Con Interfaith Healing Conference looked and felt very much
like an odd cross between a Renaissance fair and Hogwarts
School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Even the Christians I met
were of unusual types. There was a charismatic Catholic
priest who did aura readings and claimed to be able to heal
others with a set of "sacred tuning forks." There was another
man whose last name was St. Clair who claimed to be a blood
descendant of Jesus and Mary Magdalene a la the Da Vinci
Code. He was a Gnostic Christian. Many others in this large
gathering were polytheists, many of them witches. I had come
among strange brethren.
My Baptist alarm began to go off in my head. I heard old
Sunday School teachers telling me what happened when a
backslider Christian like me got involved with nonbelievers. I
was in spiritual danger here according to everything I'd been
taught. I wiped my palms on my jeans legs and tried to clear
the large frog that had suddenly jumped into my throat. Verses
about good kings of Israel being corrupted by worshiping
idols made a list at the back of my skull. My counselor self
helped me gather my courage and just decide to see what
would happen. I did hope I would not run into anyone I knew
from home. " Don't be a hater, Bob, these people are healers,"
I said several times to myself. As I practiced a little stress
management breathing technique on myself, I began to feel
better. I will admit that despite my initial concern, it did feel
balancing not to be the weirdest person in the room. All of the
participants were healers of some type. The efficacy of this
healing I was soon to discover.
The hypnotherapy training did not go exactly as planned,
which turned out to be both good and bad. The clinical
psychologist that I wanted so badly to study under did not
appear. Instead, he sent his main student to teach us. We
learned the technique that his mentor was famous for, and
grouped up to practice. That afternoon, one of my hypnotist
friends from our 1999 California training and I were chosen
to be group leaders for additional practice. That evening, two
unusual things happened. Our hypnosis teacher told me that I
was the best hypnotist present. That made dinner taste good.
The head of the conference asked me to fill in for a workshop
instructor who had canceled at the last minute. "Do some of
that marvelous trance you were doing upstairs." Empower-
ment. She wanted empowerment trance for pagans. I smiled
at the challenge despite myself.
The presentation went like a dream. The large group was
very responsive. I opened with my usual comments.
"Don't worry, folks, this is not witchcraft." This brought
cascades of laughter. Wintree, the woman who taught tea leaf
reading, responded. "Don't hold back, show us your skill."
And I did. Thirty minutes later, when we came back to room
awareness, several asked to just be covered up and allowed
to remain on the carpeted floor. Wintree spoke of feeling like
"very happy Jell-O." I felt like a kid with a new bike.
I was embraced and congratulated afterwards. Right
there I was dubbed "the bayou wizard." It turns out that when
you give a pagan "your energy," they give something in return.
This was to become the most important part of my trip.
My first gift was a hand-painted T-shirt from one of the
vendors. Next, the aroma therapist examined me with what
looked like a twisted coat hanger from the cleaners. She
determined that I was "holding very old anger." She then
sprayed me with several types of flower essence designed to
help me release my anger. As odd as it may seem, I did feel
better when she was finished. Next, I was taken to a Reiki
Life Energy healing session by a group called the Daughters
of Isis. Reiki is like having benign electricity flow through your
body. It is based on the idea that all spiritual things are made
of energy and that there is a well of the Universal Good which
can be tapped by someone who can "see the source." The
Reiki practitioner then channels this energy through their body
and into the body of the recipient. I found it interesting that
even masters of this craft cannot force you to take healing.
You have to accept it. Reiki proponents insist that it is good
for all kinds of pain, physical, emotional and spiritual. Though
relatively new to the United States, Reiki is part of the catalog
of Asian traditional medicine and has been for centuries. This
process took about an hour, as they continually urged me to
give up my anger. When I got up off the mat, nothing on my
body hurt, a very singular occurrence. Things were taking an
The last full day of the conference was "wear your witch
hat day." There were witch hats both classical and whimsical;
some wore Viking helmets or horns, like Pan. Not owning a
witch hat, I wore my Lakeview ball cap and got teased all day
about worshiping gators. There were a few classes that morn-
ing that I cut. I did not attend wand making because I was
not sure I could do so without laughter. I passed on divination
for the same reason. I was also asked to "partner" with sev-
eral of the Daughters of Isis for their fertility ritual, but politely
declined. However, nothing I had to this point experienced
prepared me for the coming of the Vikings.
Early in the afternoon, a young woman dressed as a
Valkyrie ran up to me, bowed, and presented me with hand-
written invitation to that evening's event— the Nordic Healing
Circle. This, I had been told, was the highlight of the confer-
ence. However, I had also been informed that this event was
for master practitioners only. I inquired at the Viking area, and
was granted a few minutes with the Winged Mistress. She
looked at me and said, "Bayou Shaman, you have shown
yourself a Master, but you must learn to ground lest the en-
ergy harm you." Grounding, it turned out was meditative skill
that one could learn. The young woman who brought me the
invitation volunteered to teach me. It really consisted of me
visualizing that I had roots growing out of my feet. After thirty
minutes of practice, the young Viking woman was satisfied
and withdrew inside the Viking enclosure.
That evening about seventy people, many in ritual attire,
gathered inside the grand salon. There were flowing gowns
in very bright colors along with lots of leather, a few in kilts,
and some who actually carried brooms. There were those
who were painted like American Indians or Egyptians. I felt
rather underdressed. A woman dressed as a panther kissed
me on the cheek on her way by. Then a horn sounded and
the Vikings, worshipers of Odin, marched into the hall, led
by Helga, the Winged Mistress, looking like a Wagner opera
star. I said a secret prayer that I would not mess up church for
these sincere people. Helga lighted a vase full of incense and
called on the spirits of reindeer and snow, and every deity I
had ever head of, to be present. There, about number eleven
on her list, was Jesus of Nazareth, called for my benefit. Very
quickly, the very cold room became much warmer. Helga then
asked for names and circumstances of those who were ill that
needed healing. Everyone offered at least one name, like at
prayer meeting. Then we joined hands and Helga called for
the energy to be passed. I had been taught how to hand off
the energy when it came to me, but was still not sure what
would happen. Moments later the energy passed to me from
the man on my left. I felt like I'd been struck by lightning, but
leaned and passed it to the woman on my right who took the
full hit. Then the energy was directed out through one of the
Norse acolytes to the person that needed healing. Though
there was an occasional break in the activity, the circle passed
energy for about four hours. People sang, chanted, or grunted
in various languages as we did higher levels for people with
cancer and other fatal illnesses. I am sure that I was the only
one there humming "There's Power in the Blood." It became
tropically hot. I had removed my jacket and later my denim
shirt, and before we were finished soaked my undershirt.
When Helga thanked all of the unseen forces and they "left,"
it was suddenly cold again. When I got up from my chair and
was embraced by those around me, the taproot of unhappy
was gone. I do not have words for what happened nor do I
have a label under which to file it. I had been healed by pagan
Vikings. I am still better after returning to my own world. Faith
or magic, I cannot make a call this time. I was taken in by
strange brethren who loved a stranger enough to help find his
way back home. After arriving back in my usual world I was
not at all sure that anyone would believe what had happened
to me. I felt a bit like Marco Polo when he was the only west-
erner to see China. The thing I could not deny was the reality
of how I felt.
I caught my son working on his bike under the carport.
"I stole this from Mom's refrigerator."
"Sweet." I handed him the foaming orange soda that was
his absolutely favorite drink.
"Chief, I need to tell you something about the God being
bigger than a bread box question you asked about a month
"Did you look up the answer, Dad?"
"No, I went and did research on the matter. It turns out
that God is so big that some folks call him by different names.
Our family will keep Jesus and hope he will keep us, but God
turns out to be bigger than any one church or religious group.
It's not our job to send anybody else to hell. We're just not go-
ing to worry about that part. God has folks everywhere, even
where you might not suspect."
"Cool. Are there any chips?"
And all is right with the world.
-y I used to get my dress dirty
^2 Sunday mornings before church in
I — the gritty dirt, like cinnamon
<C sprinkled on the white frills
>- of a cupcake. With black
<C under my fingernails, my mother
would not be mad, my mother
who had three girls that were usually dirty.
Her worn hands were often black
with potting soil as she would dig in
the earth, planting rows of flowers, frills
of color, from purple to yellow to cinnamon.
I used to make a mess eating cinnamon
toast, every morning, that my mother
made, crumbs nestled in the frills
of my Rainbow Brite nightgown, already dirty
from the chocolate milk I spilled in
between the leather couch cushions, a black
streak leading to coins, crumbs and more black
stains, along with the castaway grit of cinnamon.
My sister and I used to swim in
our mucky, brown pond while my mother
would fish. All three of us smelly and dirty,
my mom and sister in cutoffs, no frills
for them, as I splashed in my striped suit with frills
on the butt. We also used to play with our black
cur in the hollow tree, where it was really dirty
as we worked in a factory making cinnamon
until my mother
would tell us it was time to come in.
I remember sitting in
our kitchen in my pink birthday frills
waiting for my mother
to hand me the bowl with the remnants of black
goo that I liked better than my cinnamon
toast, and I would lick the bowl until it was clean and I was
My mother's hands are often still in soil and black,
And most of my frills are still filled with grit like cinnamon,
For there are many things that are worth getting dirty.
One black tablet is swallowed tonight.
It is bitter and hard as it sinks down.
The lungs cannot breathe,
The legs cannot stand,
One black tablet,
What you do to men,
And women who suffer from lack of color.
Too bad there is only one more tomorrow,
That never comes.
One black tablet is written in tonight.
It rescues the pained, and takes them to flight.
The fear goes away, a burden is lifted.
One black tablet desires a reading.
Each tablet of white,
But the yin is without the yang.
No need to explain,
The importance of balance.
i licked that mother-fucking toad
and sucked down the lactaid from tit
with toes in clay so red & raw
and tongue like a butterfly net
catching twinkle-sun rays
i swallow harder.
taking lightning bug gulps
into my mason jar stomach
with holes punched in it,
the sunlight syrup swirled
with milk in a Nesquik concoction.
that rushes as quick as Colorado rapids
carving out cavernous veins
as that plasmic hit bounced blood vessels
like beach balls red & raw
alighting on the surf
of my subconscious:
that beyond of placid waters deep
where eyes swim in aqueous humor
rich as whetted clay &
taste as comical as a knock knock.
i answer the door only to hear
butterfly lisps from a school girl mouth
stained by an empty chocolate milk carton
she whispered: you glow
bugs battered broken wings that
whistled cacophonous cadences in response
and my eardrums exploded in a waterfall rush
falling into pinnae puddles
where my tympanic membranes served as boats.
i floated until mourning's light butler
brought breakfast to me in a death-bed
where I lay, ajar with no holes in it.
THE wH©LE ENTIRE ST©RY
"Shit, I don't even know where to start," said Trey Cormier.
"Start with your friend."
"Whadya wanna know?"
"Well he was my ol' buddy from high school, but I ain't
seen him in a while, so when I heard he got back into town, I
went picked him up at his momma's trailer. He was over there
in l-raq, ya know. Been three years in the Marines, and hadn't
came home once to visit, so I's dyin' to see him. Me and
Patrick used to raise hell all over Sabine Parish— ya know, not
like breakin' any laws or nothin'. Just. . .ya know.
"Anyway, I pulled up there in ma truck and I seen him
sittin' out front scratchin' on his dog, smokin' him a ciga-
rette, and I say, 'Hey boy, you tellin' me that's the best-lookin'
woman you could find in l-raq?' Talkin' 'bout his dog, ya
know. But he didn't say nothin'. Ain't even laughed. I had to
call at him again, make sure he heard right, and he just looks
up and me and says, 'How's it goin', Trey?' I say, 'It'll be goin'
better when you come get in this here truck and we get some
fuckin' beer in us!' That's about when I noticed he looked a
little different than I remember him. And I ain't talkin' about the
shaved head, neither. He just got up, kinda slow, and walked
on over like he didn't care if he ever went drank a beer with
the guy that used to be his best buddy.
ARGUS first place fiction
"I kinda didn't know what to say to him, so I just kept
talkin' 'bout his dog. Said somethin' like, 'nice dog,' or what-
ever. I don't remember. And you know the first thing he says
to me after we ain't talked for upwards of three years? Starts
tellin' me 'bout how whenever they seen a dog over in l-raq,
they shoot it or throw it off a cliff or somethin' — even pup-
pies— 'cause all the dogs there got rabies, and the ones that
don't, gonna get it eventually, so they just kill 'em all. What
the fuck am I s'posed to say 'bout that? So we just didn't talk
'til we got to the Conoco. And Patrick just sat there with his
hands on his lap, lookin' out the winda like he never seen pine
trees before or somethin'."
The Sheriff cut him off. "On second thought, why don't
you skip a little bit of the beginning and get to where y'all
went to see, uh. . ." he checked the folder in front of him,
"Well that's where I start to blame yer department for
shortcomin's leadin' up to the event."
"My department?" the Sheriff huffed.
"That's right. Me and Patrick was sittin' in the parkin' lot
down at the Conoco, finishin' off a case of Keystone Light
when yer ol' deputy pulls up and tells us we got to go, there
ain't no litterin' in the parkin' lot of the Conoco. I tried to tell
him we wasn't litterin', and he kept sayin' we was. Then I said
how I cain't believe he's gon' make an American hero leave
the Conoco on false charges, when this man went and fought
for him so he could be free, but that ol' deputy didn't care. So
he made us leave, and if he hadn't-a done that, nothin' ever
woulda happened, but he did. And I wasn't drunk or nothin',
cause my blood ain't like other people's, where they drink a
few beers and get that blood-alcohol level where they cain't
drive. I can drink a whole case maself and my blood just
manufactures it up so I hardly even feel it, and I just had a
"So we headed on out. By then, there wasn't nowhere to
go, and I was thinkin' of takin' Patrick back to his momma's
trailer 'cause I couldn't get more'n a sentence or two outta
him, and that wasn't like him one bit. But when we got back
in the truck, he started tellin' me how he didn't appreciate all
that back there, me callin' him a hero and everything. So I say,
'Well, would you rather me call you an asshole?' And he says,
'Call me what you want.' Then I say, 'I'll call ya Corporal Ass-
hole,' ya know, tryin' to rile him up like when we used to hang
out, but he didn't even care. He says, 'I ain't a corporal.' I
asked then what was he, and he said he wasn't nothin'. Come
to find out, the reason he was home is the Marines gave him a
dishonor'ble discharge 'cause they caught him smokin' weed
in l-raq. Even had to do ninety days in the brig— that's what
they call jail in the Marines. He hadn't done nothin' wrong but
smoke a little weed, either. He was cap'n of his own squad
"Now before I say this next part, I gotta take this time and
plead my fifth amendment rights, so you cain't arrest me for
what I'm 'bout to say, OK?"
"Go on, son."
"Alright. So I took this news pretty heavy and all, 'cause I
know Patrick's a good ol' boy and a damn good Marine, and
it ain't fair for them to treat him like that. I felt like I needed
another beer, but I didn't have no more so I started to pull out
this blunt I had wrapped up earlier, then I thought, 'Trey, don't
try pullin' that blunt in front of Patrick. That's the thing that
got him in trouble in the first place.' So I decided to head on
down to Porter's house way the fuck out in the woods 'cause
I knew he had somethin' for me, and he used to be real close
to Patrick, too, but not as close as me and Patrick and not as
close as me and Porter."
"What did he have for you?"
Trey shifted in his seat. "C'mon, main, ya know what I'm
talkin' 'bout. Don't make me hafta say it." He leaned in close
and whispered, "Porter cooks that ice.
Ts feelin' real bad, like I said, and I needed somethin'
to relax ma nerves. So we went all the way back there, past
Zwolle and down the gravel road after ya pass up the high
school— that's where Porter lives with his girlfriend, Carla.
I hate that bitch, but she went to high school with us, too,
and if I want stuff from Porter, I gotta pretend to like her even
though she's always been a bitch to me.
"'Course, Patrick knew where we was headin' and he said
he didn't do that no more, and he said he seen a counselor
and shit and they told him to avoid his 'enablers,' whatever
the fuck that is, but I was hard up for somethin' to relax ma
mind so I took him anyway.
"When we pulled up, they had an ol' dog in the front
yard — a deaf-ass cur dog with fucked-up eyes that wasn't
even the same color, and it came at us hard as soon as we
stepped out the truck. I's afraid Patrick was gonna kill it just
outta instinct, bein' with them rabies dogs so long, but he just
petted it and it was lickin' his fingers like it smelled somethin'
"And I guess ma truck made a commotion, 'cause Por-
ter come outta the house with his AK-47 on his chest. Now I
about shit maself when I seen that 'cause I thought for sure
Patrick was gonna start havin' some of them flashbacks and
go apeshit and kill Porter with his bare hands right then and
there, but he was just calm as a cucumber. Porter's fuckin'
paranoid about the cops comin' to his house 'cause of his lab
and all, and he mighta shot Patrick with that haircut lookin'
like a cop except I was there and he recognized me, then he
recognized Patrick and he was happy as hell to see him after
"We all went inside and the dog went in there with us. His
name was Magoo, by the way, and I only tell ya that because
I told ya Carla's name and I like that dog a lot better'n I like
her. Anyway, soon I walked through the door I could smell he
was cookin' shit— just nothin' but chemicals hittin' ya right in
the nose. Takes a while to get where you can breathe normal
in there. Porter said he didn't have nothin' for me on hand,
but he was cookin' up some fresh ice and if we'd wait a few
hours, he was almost done. Patrick went to open a winda
to get rid of some of the smell, but Porter made him close it
back 'cause he said if the neighbors smelled it they'd call the
cops. He don't have any neighbors within half a mile, but that
boy's so damn paranoid ya can't tell him anything that makes
"Then Carla lit up a blunt and started passin' it around. I
couldn't believe that shit. Ya got chemicals cookin' right there
on the hot plate and yer gonna light a damn blunt? I looked
over at Patrick to see if he was 'bout to go ballistic on her, but
he ain't said shit, and when the blunt made it around to him,
he just passed it straight to me without even hittin' it. So I said
fuck it, if yer gonna light shit up regardless, I might as well get
high while I'm waitin'.
"Porter took a break from his hot plate to show Patrick
his AK-47 that he got off some guy down on Texas Street, so
it ended up bein' just me and Carla smokin'. We was both
suckin' as hard as we could 'cause we hate each other and
we both wanted to smoke more of the blunt just to be an
asshole, or a bitch in her case. Whenever company comes
over, she don't even acknowledge 'em even if she knows 'em,
like me and Patrick. She didn't even say hi to Patrick despite
the fact he'd been gone upwards of three years, and she sure
didn't say nothin' to me, 'cause I'm there all the damn time. If
she got somethin' to say and yer three feet from her, she says
it to Porter and Porter says it to ya. Shit, even Magoo don't
wanna sit by her.
"I looked over at Patrick runnin' his hands across that AK-
47 like it was a woman's leg, and he told Porter it was a good
gun even though he got it from a guy on Texas Street. It felt
kinda crazy lookin' at a guy you known since you was a little
kid, and played with him and did all kinds of shit growin' up,
and now yer starin' a man who's killed people and had people
try to kill him, meanwhile you just been waitin' for ice back in
"Patrick asked him if he could take it outside and shoot
it at the pine trees, but Porter was hard set against it. Said
it would cause a racket. So we just sat around passin' the
blunt a while, skippin' over Patrick, who was sittin' with the
gun between his legs aimed up at the ceilin', lookin' down
the barrel. He had a face like he was at a funeral, and Porter
musta seen it, too, 'cause after a little while, he says, 'I guess
you can shoot it if you go out back and aim into the woods.'
Ya didn't have to tell Patrick twice, 'cause he was out the door
before Carla could start bitchin' to Porter 'bout how the gun
might attract attention and shit. I thought I might join him, but
the idear of Carla suckin' down that blunt by herself was just
too much to bear.
"The rest is a blur. I remember hearin' shots comin' from
out back, but real slow. Like he'd shoot once, and wait a good
long time before he shot again. A good long time. And I re-
member Porter jumpin' up at some point and sayin' shit about
some red phosphus or whatnot. I don't know what he was
talkin' 'bout. Him and Patrick were always the smart ones. I
was never too good at school. And Carla was always just a
"But anyway, I remember those shots— pow . . . pow . .
. pow— and Porter fiddlin' with his hot plate. And I wouldn't
even say it was an explosion. More like the air just all of a
sudden caught on fire, without makin' even a sound. I fell
out my chair and I closed my eyes, and it was just like a
wave of heat passed over me, like if ya have a sunburn and
ya just turn on the shower. Then I heard Magoo barkin' and
then some glass was breakin'. All the glass in the trailer just
started to pop. Everyone was screamin', carryin' on, but I just
couldn't get my breath. I didn't want no ice no more. Tell ya
what, I never been to Hell, but I imagine if I went, it'd be every
bit as hot as that trailer.
"I figured then and there I was gonna die. It almost didn't
make no difference, either. Ya know how yer life's s'posed to
flash before yer eyes and shit? Well mine took it about three
seconds, and all I saw was fuckin' Zwolle, Louisiana, gettin'
drunk and gettin' high. I started chokin' on the smoke, and
still I was thinkin', 'Damn, Carla, shut the fuck up already,'
'cause she was hollerin' so much I thought Magoo coulda
heard her. Next thing I know, air starts rushin' in the door like
it got sucked through, and there's a fireman standin' over me
with an axe. Then I realize that ain't no fireman, that's Patrick
with the AK-47. He grabs me under the armpits and starts
draggin' me out, thumpin' down the steps, then he hauls me
across the gravel all the way to the truck. It hurt like a sum-
bitch, but I wasn't complainin'.
"Before I could say thank ya, he disappeared back in
there, and a minute later he comes out with Porter on his
shoulder. And Porter ain't whatcha call little. He probably got
forty pounds on Patrick, but Patrick threw him down by me
like a suitcase.
"Next, he come out with Carla, still hollerin' and coughin'.
She wasn't two seconds out of that trailer before she was
bitchin' at Porter for that red phosphus-whatever. Patrick
looked down at me, and I seen somethin' I hadn't seen since
that night before he took off for the Marines, and we was get-
tin' shit-faced for the last time on the roof of a school bus. He
got that look right before he says to me, 'Wanna check if it's
unlocked?' By mornin' that bus was fourteen feet below the
highway in a ravine— and remember, I pleaded the fifth, so
you cain't use that story against me. But I saw it. He bent over
me and he says, 'I'm goin' after the dog.' I remember thinkin',
shit, why didn't he get ol' Magoo before he got Carla? And I
was just laughin' to myself, glad I was outta there.
"When yer lyin' on the ground way away from where shit's
on fire or whatever, it's actually kinda cool, just watchin' the
trailer go down bit by bit. It ain't hot or smoky, so you can just
sit back, no worries. I guess it took a while for it to dawn on
me that he wasn't gon' come back out. By then everything
was on fire. Every winda, even the roof. It kinda melted in on
itself, and then it was just like an ol' skeleton somebody set to
"I was lookin' hard by then, knowin' he was gone, but I
didn't feel sad even though he was my best buddy for a long
time. Porter and Carla were arguin' 'bout some shit that don't
matter, but I wasn't payin' attention. I was wonderin' what
he saw. Ya know, what flashed in front of him when he was
holdin' that dog and he realized he wasn't never cormin' out
again. It prolly took a while, considerin' how many places he'd
been to. It's crazy, how you can have two people grow up the
same exact place and do all the same shit together, but give
'em three years apart, and they got a lifetime of different shit
to talk about. Ya know?"
The Sheriff clicked the stop button on his tape recorder
and leaned back in his chair. He collected his folder of papers
"You ain't gonna charge me, are ya, Sheriff?" Trey asked.
"Son, I think you can go home. 'Fraid I can't say the same
for your friend, Porter."
"That's alright." Trey rose to his feet. "I think mebbe you
cain't say that 'bout me, neither." He slipped through the in-
terrogation room door, then out into the night, where the scent
of pine was at once familiar and very strange.
Down the dirty Paris street I stumbled,
drunk for the second, no third, time in my life,
searching for the bar two bars ago where I left my jacket.
Lost with a liquor-drenched mind, I laughed at every wrong turn.
I was drunk for the third time in my life
in the city of lights that disappointed me upon first glance
until I was lost on a culture-drenched street and took every wrong turn,
only to find my vest as well as a friend
in the city of lights that suited me well after a second look.
In its rough edges and blunt busyness,
I found excitement as well as a friend.
Tucked-away charm and profound treasures abound
among its rough edges and blunt busyness.
Crowded and old, sometimes smelly, it brought truth to a dream or two
with all of its charm and profound treasures,
just like every other big city, and yet so very different.
Crowded and old, mostly smelly, it gave me a dream or two
as I stumbled down the dirty Paris street,
seeing every other big city, all so very different,
and searching for places upon places to leave part of myself.
THOUGHTS ©F FAifS SHAY ATKINS
1* :Qk*S»#*2&-- -i'
£ ""V a?'
from "A Lesson In Flight"
No one ever told me that I had to walk down that hallway
everyday. No one ever told me what to say, or how to react to
all of them. They hurtled words at me that I didn't understand,
but I knew exactly what they meant. I should have been
appalled that I, a sixth grader, did not have the same under-
standing of what was good and what was bad that my peers
seemed to have. Perhaps I should have been thankful that
they meant to show me the right way to dress and act, and
the right things to say. How silly of me.
The classes for my grade were divided into two hallways that
met at a ninety-degree angle. The worn linoleum tiles shouted
up the regrets of thousands of students that had traversed
them. It was an old school, and the antiquity of its methods
and materials showed through the thinning veneer of 1996.
I loved my school. It was a wonderland of books and art, in
stark contrast to my home, which was dark, dusty, and ugly.
The students that arrived to school by bus usually got there
early. We were expected by the administration to sit next to
our respective classes in those ninety-degree hallways until
our teachers arrived. This created two long torturous path-
ways, lined with anxious students. The path was just wide
enough for a single person to walk down and find a seat on
the wall. If you arrived early, you could avoid most of the stu-
dents, have your seat, and wait peacefully.
If you arrived later, you had the joy of greeting all of your
friends on the path.
If you arrived after that, and if you were me, you were treated
to an agonizing journey.
My family was grasping for money in every direction. We had
nothing, aside from the house we slept in, and an occasional
box of groceries from the church. Our budget didn't leave
much room for clothing. My overprotective mother would still
pick which clothes I would wear to school. It seemed odd to
me then — I longed to take care of myself. It seems more odd
now, looking back. Without the money for the things I wanted
to wear, I was left at the mercy of whatever was available,
which included hand-me-downs from church friends, school
friends, and my own mother. I would sometimes be doomed
to wear a giant, stretched out T-shirt and biker shorts because
it was all we had. Clothing that didn't fit, things that were
too large, too tight, strange colors— these were not exactly
welcomed by the hallway of agony. The students laughed,
pointed, giggled, became angry, or almost always silent... and
none of them knew a thing about me. I endured this assault
on my family, my status, and my confidence every single day
of school for the entire year.
I didn't know what gay meant in 1996. I knew that I would
have the occasional crush on a fellow student, and that
most of the time that student would be another boy. I had
known that since kindergarten. I didn't really know what that
meant for everyone else. I kept it to myself —what was there
to explain? However, it seemed that most kids my age had
already received an extensive education on the subject, and
made sure to point out a "potential" whenever appropriate.
It seemed to be appropriate whenever— especially during my
walks to class at 7:45 a.m. down a silent, pregnant hallway.
It's a good thing that most sixth graders are resilient. It's un-
fortunate that I wasn't.
Come, walk at my side.
Leave behind these deadline-driven hours.
The late-night grinding tedium of your studies
I shall swab from your mind like chalk-dust.
Lay aside your umbrella;
The September rain shall not harm us.
Its frail winds strain to stroke our faces
That survey the drenched cityscape smeared
As a ruined charcoal sketch in blurred grey tones.
Rain, like someone's downcast love story,
Spills from gutters onto blacktop.
Strikes the sentry-like streetlamps.
At my side, you in your soaked shirt.
Leaning against the cool wrought iron post
Of a shop's overhanging.
Your gaze drawn beyond sloshing cars.
Dare I intrude?
Farther we might proceed
Until the city recedes behind us.
A dim, violet dusk.
Blue streaks of clouds etched into the west.
Ancient oaks stand silhouetted darkly
Against an expanse fragranced with damp soil and
Lie those entwined in massive roots.
From the earth surrounding.
Animate before acorns became these trees,
One wonders where they found themselves.
And do you remain?
I reach skyward to a void of dark mystery
Whose myriad fragments of stellar inferno
Beg the question, Why?
For those which ended distanced
From us by light years, dead trails of brightness
Trace paths to where they once burned.
All of it tragic and sublime
As humanity's flicker.
Observe this handful of grass,
Your own hands, these details.
Your frailty realized,
Perceive the vast ingenuity of this cosmos
And the unembodied mind from whence it came,
Self-contained and beautifully ineffable.
O Love that conceives all love
(Wherein all loves terminate)
Be my own demise,
As I accept no other end.
As for you, earthen masterwork,
These thoughts of mine are yours to keep or to kill,
All things worthwhile are yours.
SHALL Wl DANCE? RANDALL FREDERICK
My heart breaks into the million little strips of confetti adorning a
party I was invited to, but not welcome at, as I stand in the corner
watching you watching me and thinking to myself what a delightful
time we once had dancing across the floor of the room that divides
us, how delightful the feel of your body and breasts against me
with nothing but confetti between our whispers and laughter and
all those moments that we shared.
But now that confetti bursts, like Stardust from the celestial and/or
heavens, I know not which, and it's as if everything comes and
goes, moving with such determinate slowness that I could so eas-
ily step between those pieces of myself to reach out and touch
you, to take your hand and run away from this floor upon which
we once danced, but your eyes and smile, I know not which, tell
me that is not what you want, and pop goes my heart, pop goes
those memories, pop goes everything, God damn it, that once was
or ever could be of all that we shared, as those bodies between
us now swirl and spin, laughing now as they dance, oblivious to
everything that once was or ever could be but now is not, for I no
longer dance and my steps have retraced themselves with a little
jig and indeterminate shuffle to forget that dance we once danced
so long ago it seems almost as if it did not happen except for the
resounding broken blasts of collected confetti here and there as
if timed to a metric scale which you could dance to, those strips
strewn across the dance floor, as the smile and laughter fade from
off my heart, my visage, my very soul and pop goes the leaves and
the twigs and the berries of Arkansas underneath my sole as I grab
the coat I once took off so you could wear it when you were cold
as I exit with that indeterminate shuffle of mine for some means
of escaping the falling stars of the celestial body within the rav-
ages of time, temptation and touch as those still dancing rush to
the window, laughing and commenting on how beautiful the falling
stars are, not knowing how they glisten and twinkle like strips of
confetti inside the room, adorning the party I was invited to but not
ARGUS THIRD PLACE POETRY
©N C©FFEE AND DRAGONS
Not dead. Oh no. They cannot be. yj
Thin, elusive, silver vapors >
Rose from the half-written note page Q^
And made their way to a coffee- <(
Drenched brain half-focused on them. ^
Those scaly mist creatures at once n '
Demanded to be set free to < ^
Burn their marks on the half-blank sheet , x
That stared back at two, brown, droopy, _
Half-closed, sloppily painted lids. ^?
"Let them go" was not an option. LU
Holding on also proved futile. ~ >
The half-real beasts vanished back through
The caffeine gate from which they came.
Faces smashed intolerably close to one another
in an interlocking exchange
make the fizzle of pop-rocks shoot through taste buds
like the sun rays through crystal that smells
like burnt popcorn (or battery acid)
In the darkness while faces fade forward
watching lights dance strong and twinkling
goosepimples run across flesh, barely glazed
as thoughts flee to dilated egg-timers twitching and
bodies adapted in turnstyle rotations
meld in & out, in & out of one another
ml ' jdftAj& r 4(? •■
Setting: A graveyard at sunrise, an empty plot is surrounded
At Rise: silence hangs heavy in the air. A lone bird chirps.
Mary enters; she is dressed in black and carrying a single rose.
She crosses to the empty plot, kneels before it, and places the
rose on top of the earth.
God of spirits and of all flesh, who hast trampled down death
and overthrown the Devil, given life to Thy world; give rest to
the souls of Thy departed servants in a place of brightness...
a place of refreshment, a place of repose, where all sickness
and sorrow have fled away. Pardon every transgression which
they have committed. For Thou art a good God and lovest
Thy righteousness is to all eternity, and Thy word is truth.
(Silence. Mary rises and begins to leave.)
SECOND PLACE FICTION
Amen. You, um, you left out the best part.
Mary (Her back is still turned to Lenny)
For Thou only art without sin, because there is no man who
lives yet does not sin. Maybe it's not the best part, but it's the
How are you, kiddo?
Oh my God... I, um, I'm fine— I guess. What, what are you
I could ask the same of you. I, ah, enjoyed the prayer. I
haven't heard it since YaYa passed. Seems a little strange to
mourn the living, though.
If you acted like the living I wouldn't have to mourn you.
You look... good, black isn't really your color, though. I al-
most left when I saw you here, but —
Why are you here? Shouldn't you be... doing whatever it is
you do now?
Yeah, I probably should, but... well, sometimes I come here
Think about what?
Think about what, Lenny? Talk to me. I... I want to help you.
Why can't I help? This isn't fair. You're not supposed to be
dead. You're not dead. Do you have any idea what this is do-
ing to Mom? Has that thought even crossed your mind? You
didn't see her when they came, when that clerk came to the
door with the letter. Killed in action, he said. We thank you for
you son's valiant sacrifice in the service of his country. She
cried all night... we all did.
No, you're not. You might be a lot of things, Leonard, but
you're not sorry. You can't be. If you were sorry you would
get in the car right now and come home with me.
I said I can't....
Why not!? You're a miracle, Leonard. You were dead, and
then you came back to life. Don't waste it.
Waste it? If there's anything I do know about it's wasted life.
You don't understand. You can't. You haven't seen it, lived it.
You weren't over there! You have no idea what it's like to be
touched by death. How it invades you; sickens your soul.
Tell me then, talk to me, talk to somebody. Make me under-
stand; we want you back. Please. You're not alone, Leonard.
We are all alone.
When did you get so selfish? This is not my brother. My
brother would do anything for his family. My brother would—
That's not who I am anymore.
Who are you then?
I... I don't know. I know who I'm not. I'm not who I used
to be... It changes you. No one asked me! This isn't what I
wanted! I was ready. I made my peace. Four days I laid there
bleeding in the desert— begging Him to take me— to embrace
me in His loving arms and carry me home. He just spit me
back out into this hell... I remember pain, pain beyond be-
lief... pain that would never end. Then came the screaming,
me... the doctors... the nurses— everyone screaming.
Lazarus phenomenon, they called it. Not miracle. There's no
such thing as miracles, just scientific phenomena. I'm not a
normal person anymore, Mare. I will never be a normal per-
son again. I can't be.
When did you get so selfish? This is a gift from God, Lenny.
He chose you. He could have picked anyone, but he didn't.
He picked you. You're special.
No, I'm not. I'm ruined. You should go.
For God's sake, Lenny, stop this!
You don't understand, Mary. There is no God. I hate to break
the news to you, kiddo, but... I was there. No light, no angels,
no pearly gates, no Saint fucking Peter, and certainly no God.
Just blackness, empty darkness ringing with silence. You
can't know what—
Stop It! Stop saying that. You're the one who doesn't know!
The worst part was when they came back. Wonderful news,
he said. Your brother isn't dead. Sorry for your grief, but
we're sending him back... We were going to have a party for
you, with the whole family, a joyous festival for our Lazarus.
It was a miracle.
Then you never came. She crumbled a little each day waiting.
Three years now and she's still waiting, you know... we, well,
we all are.
I don't think you should come here anymore.
No, I don't think you should come here anymore.
Leave me alone.
I can't... Come with me.
(Lenny shakes his head and exits slowly Mary begins to cry.
She slowly returns to the grave site and kneels again.)
O God bless Thy servant. For Thou are the Resurrection, the
Life, and the Repose of Thy servants who have fallen asleep,
Christ our God, and unto Thee we ascribe glory, together
with Thy Father, who is from everlasting, and Thine all-holy,
good, and life-creating Spirit, now and ever unto ages of
(She begins to exit, but pauses.)
1 love you, big brother. Come home to us. Amen.
(Exit Mary A crow is heard in the distance. Lights out.)
T© THE H©N©RA8LE
€> DIE FOR AN IDEA: A VlLLANELLE
ANNA RAYE JENNINGS
Where frailty lives with dignity
In prison cells devoid of light
The highest of humanity
Recall a time when they were free.
Imagination takes its flight
Where frailty lives with dignity.
To minds constrained by tyranny
Belief is still a sacred right.
The highest of humanity
Can grasp this concept more than we.
In chambers hidden from our sight
Where frailty lives with dignity
Their prayers become a symphony
They sing for their oncoming night.
The highest of humanity
In wretchedness and agony
Longsuffering and strength unite
Where frailty lives with dignity:
The highest of humanity.
The Arts and Science Building
Too cold or too hot, never just right
Smelled like an old sweat sock
Kept in a closed locker
He stood carelessly, rail thin
Jeans like old blue paint
Sandals even in winter
Hair in a loose ponytail
Walrus facial hair, untamed
(Mom, at least it's clean)
Young heart, young legs
And Atticus Finch Dreams
Dreams of being real
Kyser Hall once again
Too hot, too cold, never just right
Smells like an old sweat sock
Kept in a closed locker
He stands on teacher tired feet
Despite the soft walking shoes
Elastic waist slacks
That he swore he'd never wear
Silvering hair, bared close to the face
(Honey it's too gray if I wear it longer) tq
Bruised heart, bruised legs !~~
Teacher of the Year Dreams ^
Dreams of being real ^~
A&S KYSER (BUILDING 81)
BEARING THEIR BURDENS
WITH GRATITUDE F@R ZAF©N
With yellowed, brittle pages and its broken spine
Saturated with must and the stale scent of neglect,
The shelved book rests fulfilling stages of decline.
Thickly coated with dust that took years to collect.
Characters that once danced through readers' minds
In quaint little towns surrounded by green lands
Are now quite immobile, statically enshrined
Inhabiting desolate cities where time is banned
Its home a used bookstore, its value diminished
Dishonors the first owner that saved until owned.
Its plot no longer valid and characters finished
But never to its author that labored until honed.
Words that once inspired, interested, and intrigued
Lie on the pages forgotten, fragile, and fatigued.
■iu5 C- -